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.