Imran Khan, the bitter pill we have to swallow to start treating a problem that plagues this country

Published: April 26, 2017
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Cricket legend and Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) or Movement for Justice party, Imran Khan. PHOTO: AFP

Since Imran Khan rallied voters to his cause on Election Day on May 11, 2013, selling the promise of real meaningful change for Pakistan in the fight against the status quo, he has fallen from the pedestal in the eyes of many voters. Those who once believed in the former cricket superstar as the person to take the country past its problems have been left disillusioned by multiple problems, the majority of which have been discussed on numerous occasions, including by myself on this blog space.

Whenever Imran is in the news on Facebook, a significant portion of the reactions show disdain. That’s because even his most loyal fans are tired of hearing his tired spiel, especially in light of some of his more amusing blunders.

While this is certainly understandable, it is also unfortunate, because it has blinded us to the greatest political achievement of his career; the fight against Nawaz Sharif’s family in light of the Panama Papers leaks, which showed unexplained wealth stashed away through companies in the British Virgin Islands.

After a few decades of relative prosperity since independence, Pakistan slowly became a victim to corruption. This malaise has now gripped the country. From policemen and mechanics to government employees and civil servants, the disease has spread far and wide. But while some at the bottom of the food pyramid eventually go punished, it is the fat cats at the top who are never brought to justice. Of course, we are speaking of politicians, the majority of whom are notorious for living affluent lifestyles on modest government salaries, thanks to kickbacks and worse.

Two of the most infamous symbols of corruption have been Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari. We Pakistanis have a habit of eulogising, so after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was assassinated, it seems like all was forgotten, especially by our media who are particularly sympathetic towards the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for reasons one can’t understand. But the cases against Benazir and her husband are well documented. This includes tens of millions of dollars frozen by the Swiss government in 1997 that was hidden away by the duo as well as $1.5 billion the couple generated through criminal means.

Don’t believe me? Here are some excerpts from The New York Times:

“The Geneva magistrate has been conducting a wide-ranging inquiry seeking to account for more than $13.7 million frozen by Swiss authorities last fall. The money was allegedly stashed in Swiss banks by Ms Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari.

Judge Devaud, who indicted three others in the case in June, also asked Pakistan last month to indict Mr Zardari on similar charges.

It is unclear if or how soon Pakistani investigators would act on the Swiss request, or even whether Ms Bhutto could be tried for a breach of Swiss law in a Pakistani court.

The Swiss request – which concerns a relatively small portion of the vast wealth the Bhuttos have amassed – may be far down on the list of concerns for the Pakistani investigators. Only last week, they brought the first criminal charges against Ms Bhutto in their efforts to track down what they estimate is $1.5 billion the couple received in bribes, kickbacks and commissions in a variety of enterprises.”

Then there is Nawaz, who is a billionaire as are some of his children, and has been dogged for years by allegations of corruption, money laundering and the like, usually by opposing politicians. But he’s never been convicted, curiously enough. As Imran says, and I am paraphrasing, it would be difficult for a criminal to convict another criminal when they both have dirt on each other.

Then there was General Pervez Musharraf, who lost any respect he had amongst his followers when he handed out the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which gave 13 years of amnesty to politicians accused of corruption, money laundry, terrorism, and embezzlement. Fortunately, the NRO was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2009, but it showed that not even a former army general turned dictator is infallible when it comes to bargaining for a political position.

Yet there is one man who has fought tooth and nail, spent blood and sweat to fight against corruption, and that’s Imran. When the Panama Papers leaked, he termed it an act of God. Despite being non-religious, I can still see his point of view; he finally had a weapon. For all we know, the Panama Papers are like a tiny window into the depth of the facade, but they are the opening Imran needed.

As is now obvious from the Supreme Court ruling, the prime minister had plenty to hide and has only offered half-truths, cover ups, and possibly forged documents. Let’s keep in mind that no one else has used the Panama Papers to start an investigation into Nawaz except Imran. Yes, Imran is flawed, but he’s already made history by becoming so close to finally bringing a Pakistani politician to justice. He could be the bitter pill we have to swallow to start treating a problem that plagues this country. For that, he deserves our support. As he’s already promised, after he’s done with the Sharif clan, Zardari is next.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Humza

    It;s important not to believe your own nonsense. This is what Imran Khan has taught me. He has proven that he is the last person to talk about accountability or corruption given his track record. Like you I was also a PTI supporter and PTI member before I grew up and saw that hypocrisy is never the answer. Imran Khan had an off shore account which he forgot to mention early on when he was accusing the PM of wrong doing over flats worth a few million pounds bough decades ago. Is this a reason to derail the country and make it into some Arab Spring type Banana Republic? What about Imran Khan ignoring a court order in the US to appear in the case of his daughter born by Sita White? No one forgets his support of Jemima Goldsmith’s brother over his own compatriot in the London mayoralty elections. Do you think Imran has any moral weight o call out the PM’s kids living abroad when his own kids live in the UK? People in glass houses cannot throw stones is all that Imran Khan has shown us. If you want to stop corruption, follow democracy and we all need to grow up and work with parliament.Recommend

  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir

    Non sense and secular liberal garbage.Recommend

  • Naeem Rehman

    He is not a bitter pill but a very sweet one.. If he gets to lead the country for about 10 years then the eras of Sharifs, Zardaris and rest will be classed as dark ages for Pakistan…Recommend

  • Striver

    If you examine the Imran Khan’s speeches, you can only one to come conclusion if you are honest. He is fighting a Jihad against corruption.
    Pakistan needs a stubborn man like him to clean up Pakistan of corrupt people.Recommend

  • Farooq

    isn’t ppp a bitter pill with starving in tharpakar
    isn’t pml-n a bitter pill with kasur sex scandal and billions in bribes
    the list goes on and onRecommend

  • Mir Ishfaq

    stunning article…agree with every bit of it…Recommend

  • Aik Paki

    An argument that allows Zardari and Sharif’s to loot and plunder. Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    It is unfortunate because it has blinded us to the greatest political achievement of his career; the fight against Nawaz Sharif’s family in light of the Panama Papers leaks, which showed unexplained wealth stashed away through companies in the British Virgin Islands.

    The act of whistle blower on corruption is not any poitical enterprise especially when the news was sourced from the western media. Besides in a country where according to the author the disease has spread from th policemen and mechanics to government employees and civil servants, it is futile to fight corruption without first eliminating the causual factors namely the poverty. This is not to say that Sharifs have any legitamate criterion to stay on in power nor does it mean that the former playboy cricketer has earned the leadership of the people.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Arman Zain

    Given that PPP and PML-N are corrupt but PTI is no angel either. People standing right and left of Imran Khan is no less corrupt either. As per IK himself, many questions can be asked as per his house in Bani Gala, his off own offshore companies. In reality, Pakistani’s have been really unfortunate in find a true leader.
    Is IK is a bitter pill that can be swallowed? One can argue that maybe he is most honest among political leader but that doesn’t make him best for Pakistan. He is too immature, egoistic, self-centered and lacks vision. For last 4 years, he has done nothing but crying and complaining, rather than being productive and really developing KPK when he had a real opportunity. As far as Panama is a concern, it is not IK, it is social media and new sources of information that has made it so vital other side Benazir Swiss cases and Surrey Places cases were more open and shut cases of corruption, as author eluded to in “extract from New York Times.” Panama just provided IK with another opportunity to cry as he lost his steam in election rigging. If he was really serious about corruption he should have strived to pass bills in parliament and make Pakistan laws and institution stronger to tackle with corruption but in reality, he has just blamed institutions and make them further weaker. In Panama case, all he got is, Nawaz Sharif is not “Sadiq and Ameen” did we had to go through all this to figure that out! I think every Pakistani knows this fact.
    In truth, if he really wanted to strength Pakistan he should have worked much much harder in KPK, build new schools, colleges, and universities, new industry and get more jobs for the people. His KPK was govt was mostly busy with dharnas and infighting, do we really want the same thing at the federal level. NO !!!Recommend

  • Omar K Cheema

    Speak for yourself
    i’m a religious conservative but i agree with the article.Recommend

  • Omar K Cheema

    This is not the same as Arab Spring
    1 – Arab countries were protesting for democracy, Pakistan already has a democracy.
    2 – Arabs countries wanted to remove their leader without any alternative leader in place, nor a political system to lead the country after the dictator is removed. Pakistan already has a vibrant political scene, and if Nawaz is removed, we have a framework in place to choose a new leader, unlike the Arab countries.

    However i agree that Imran is a hypocrite too, but in a political landscape as complex and twisted as Pakistan, one cannot destroy the system from outside and hope to begin anew, with no resources. One has to change the system from within and use the resources the system already has, and in order to do that Imran has to play the game of politics and win. Only after he wins that game can he start to play the game of changing the system. But until he wins, he is dependent on the system and the political game to overcome his opponent, so he has to play by its rules.

    To win the seat of PM , Imran has to play the game of T20 cricket.
    to change the country after he is PM, Imran has to play the game of Test cricket.
    you are asking Imran to bat at test strike rate, for a T20 game. That is an unreasonable expectation.Recommend

  • Mamu

    Salute to you. I wish all of un-educated people also had the same thought.Recommend

  • Mehriene

    Imran’s children live abroad because their mother is British and has their custody after their divorce . What reasons do the Sharif sons have for living abroad ? There will never be another honest,patriotic man like Imran Khan. Even with all his faults,he is still the best option we have to save our Pakistan. IK all the way for me at least Recommend

  • Dosra Paki

    Zardari, Nawaz, Imran, and most of the politicians are all the same.
    And so are most of the people in other departments. Unfortunately, we are all corrupt from inside too :(Recommend

  • Parvez

    Ardeshir Cowasjee carried on a battle against the builders, land grabbers, looters and plunderers mostly in our courts. I once got the opportunity to ask him if he thought he could win the fight and he answered ‘ Of course not, but do you want me to stop fighting ? ….at best I will slow them down and that too will be an achievement ‘.
    Today people remember him as an upright member of society……I know how people people will remember Zardari and Nawaz and many of our so called leaders but can you shame the shameless.
    Imran Khan has his faults…..stupid ones……but I agree with you, he must not stop his fight.Recommend

  • Humza

    When will people understand that there is no superman but that we are all men with the ability to make a better country? The delusion of some magical ruler or general with a magic wand to fix all things is unique to Muslim countries and you have seen the result in Arab Spring type Dharnas and uprisings have made them the joke of the world with the worst instability. It may not sound cool or fast but trying to fix things in parliament and waiting a few cycles for institutions and democracy to improve with greater participation is the answer – not 3 rd world quick fix schemes and swearing. Take a good look at Imran Khan, his attitude, his behavior and his actions which put his personal ambition above the country. Yes no one is perfect but we are talking about a country, its future and development – not about characters and heros. In time, Nawaz, Zardari, Imran and countless others won’t matter but what should matter is establishing a system. With Pakistan ruled by generals for over half its existence, it’s time to let the system develop which will take a few cycles and not give in to cheap populism and we should all do our bit to follow laws, tell the truth and pay taxes.Pakistan right now is one of the few stable Muslim states. Let’s keep it going like that and not some Banana Republic a la Arab Spring Dharna.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Imran’s motives are a key factor before he gets any support. During the lawyer’s movement against Musharraf, Imran Khan was sitting together with Benazir and Nawaz despite having called them corruption king and corruption queen for years prior to that.

    IK doesn’t give two cents over corruption charges. His motivation is to put Nawaz out of power so that he can become the Premier. Imran, very clearly shows dictatorial tendencies. Just look at what he did to Hashmi’s career. Or the careers of cricketers during his captaincy.

    What charges are there against Nawaz Sharif in Panama Papers? None. The alleged corruption took place during the nineties and nothing was proved against Sharif family during the 9 years of Musharraf era.

    Sharif family corruption doesn’t even compare to Zardari’s. Imran sat quietly trying to work out a deal with Zardari during 2008-2010 and only went anti-corruption after 2011. Its a populist slogan and political gimmick for IK. Nothing more.Recommend

  • Anjum Arshi

    You are exactly right in identifying corruption as the main and the most crippling disease Pakistan has. Indeed, if Pakistan were a company it would be named as ‘Corruption Inc.’. But the question is: Is Imran Khan really the pill we are looking for? Seriously doubt that. He is part of the corrupt system and therefore he is the problem and not the solution. To his left and right you see the most corrupt politicians of Pakistan. I do believe, however, that IK is on a mission, and for that he thinks the Panama Papers was a God-given. His mission is to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Israr Khan

    IK is the honest person and now has our support so bitter pill, sweet pill or injection whatever u call him he is what we need right now an honest man to do the hard work to get things corruption free to setup processes like he has done in kpk, the police in kpk is corruption free and an institution now, imagine nab, fbr and fia are corruption free massive tax recovery massive crime reduction massive corruption reduced less prices to pay for milk, oil, gas, less amount of tax direct and indirect to pay imagine just imagine…. so right now what we need is IK, remember he is best guy to get u next leader as well and actually many leaders :)Recommend

  • abdul khan

    Excellent Blog. I think very useful for all people. keep up the great posts! Recommend

  • Striver

    That you fail to see beyond the fiery political rhetoric is unfortunate;Recommend

  • Henna Arshad Shaykh

    Our country needs Imran Khan and he is the only person who is raising voice against corrupt. KPK has systems now which speaks of PTI success. It is requested from this writer to do a little research before opening the pendora against politicians which we all love to do — pretty much similar to the insane drumming that happen in news shows as well.–Recommend

  • SHAKIR SHAMIM

    AN IMMATURE ARTICLE DONT 9 ABCD OF POLITICS.Recommend