The rights and wrongs of Imran Khan’s politics

Published: January 7, 2012

Imran Khan needs careful slogans and one committed path to take advantage of this massive support. PHOTO: FILE

With the Arab Spring sweeping  away dictators world over, Pakistanis too are looking for a revolution to get rid of its democratically elected government. Interestingly, they have found new hope in the Niazi from Mianwali. 

Former cricketer turned philanthropist turned politician, Imran Khan, is probably the most popular politician in Pakistan today. While Pakistan will never get its Arab Spring, a change in the political landscape is definitely a looming reality.

Previously naive Khan has learnt some vital lessons from his mistakes, and has started to mature. He is careful to not criticize the military and its top brass – apparently he has learnt from his criticism of the last military dictator. The kaptaan has even recruited many of his senior party members from the ranks of army, navy, and air force. His party apparatus also seems to be represented in all urban cities all across the nation; not many parties have that wide an appeal.

However, support for Khan should not be blind. Most of our young supporters, many of whom will vote for the first time, accept every policy of the PTI as a good one. Khan has been wrong in the past and he will make mistakes in the future. Pakistan doesn’t need any messiahs, it needs humble and strong leaders. But in order to support the cricket hero, voters should realize the impact of his policies and his political rhetoric.

Corruption: Throughout the history of his party, the PTI has been clear on the issue of fighting rampant corruption. Khan has become a powerful symbol of the anti-corruption movement in the minds of the people. He should, thus, not lose this noble image by recruiting opportunistic people who are eager to earn dimes.

Bureaucracy: PTI has also been vocal about cutting down the overwhelming bureaucracy. According to the International Crisis Group, the Pakistani bureaucracy numbers four million individuals, and the need of the day is much lower. Good initiative by Khan, but the process of reducing bureaucracy should be slow and careful. This should be done so that the Pakistan Civil Services does not put up resistance, and so that the unemployment rate does not sky-rocket.

Education: Another good clause Imran Khan is focussing on is to increase the funds allocated to education and health sectors. Today only two% of the GDP is allocated to education. In some provinces only 60% of the allocated funds are used. The legacy from Zia’s era (1977-1988) on the school curriculum which is filled with hate against the minorities should also be of major interest.

Taxation: Pakistan’s tax to GDP ratio is among the lowest in the world (hovering around nine% annually). The majority of revenue is gathered from the middle class, the business community, and from the bureaucrats who receive official salaries. PTI has been vocal on its demand to reform the tax system in order to let all segments of the society to pay up. Good signals, and probably the important business community will join ranks if it is counseled.

Now to address some of Mr Khan’s policies which might backfire, if he comes to power.

Saying no to aid: Imran Khan has sometimes, in heated debates, claimed that Pakistan is self-sufficient and does not need loans from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, or any foreign country if its corruption can be brought to zero. Even the most developed countries have some corrupt officials. Khan should, thus, focus on giving clear cut visions of a transparent democracy instead of labeling all his opponents corrupt. At the end of the day, he too is a politician.

Pak-US relations: The kaptaan keeps chanting friends not masters. What he should realise is that beggars cannot be choosers. We cannot deceive our allies and claim respect at the same time. Had Pakistan done its job, in keeping its territory clean of terrorists, then drones, CIA contractors, and NAVY Seals would not be in Pakistan now. Sad but true.

Terrorism: Regarding the security situation in Pakistan, Khan has suggested dialogue and development to counter extremism. While this is a good starting point, Khan would be wise not to waste time on dialogue with forces that are at war with the state and its people. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other outfits in the tribal areas have several times struck deals with Islamabad and Rawalpindi (GHQ) but each time the ceasefire is used to take advantages. Pakistan seriously needs one committed army, without any double deals, one committed government without any risk of being unpopular, and one united people committed to protect the survivor of the nation. Khan’s promise of guaranteed peace within 90 days if in power is utter rubbish and misleading.

Some believe PTI is supported by Pakistani intelligence just the way Nawaz Sharif was in the late 90s. For the sake of democracy and Pakistan’s prosperity, let’s hope this connection doesn’t impact Khan’s work for reform in the future. Civilians should control the military, not the other way around.

PTI needs to convert the support into votes, because many have come before him with reasonable agendas, but have always lost support during elections.


Usman Asif

Norwegian born of Pakistani descent, writes on politics, society and religion. He blogs at He tweets @UsmanBaghi.

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