Pakistan’s new prime minister is not the liberal reformer you might thinkby Husna Rizvi / August 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
The inauguration of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s new prime minister, which takes place on Saturday, should be a moment of celebration. The former cricket captain ran on an anti-corruption platform and his party, Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) or Movement for Justice, garnered support from a middle class frustrated with a landowning elite. When Khan takes office it will be the country’s second uninterrupted civilian transfer of power in its 70-year history.
In his victory speech, Khan promised to recreate the social egalitarian vision of the first Islamic city-state, Medina. But just what this “Naya Pakistan” will look like is unclear.
The trouble with parties organised around the persona of their leadership is that the politics beneath can become obscured. For a leader who has promised to build both a welfare state and administer an IMF-driven austerity programme, this has been an advantage. But once in office, the differences between Khan’s rhetoric and the policies he is implementing will be harder to square.
Aisha Sarwari, a Pakistani feminist author, told me: “Imran Khan has tremendous charisma. He has built schools and a cancer hospital. People consider him a son of the soil, a restorer of Pakistani pride given the 1992 cricket world cup win and not to mention an Oxford education.
“That makes the middle classes believe PTI can disrupt the order of rotational ‘king parties’ that have undoubtedly been corrupt and disillusioning.” But look a bit closer, she said, and you’ll quickly find examples of alleged corruption among both the party’s campaign funders and its candidates. She added “one of them is a convicted rapist.” He has since been expelled after social media backlash.