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Imran Khan’s ‘New Pakistan’ is full of the same old faces

And in this ‘new Pakistan’, the less said about the judiciary and army, the better chance of survival for a politician and/or anyone

analysis Updated: Aug 31, 2018 16:10 IST
Mehmal Sarfraz
Mehmal Sarfraz
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan (centre) attends a briefing at the foreign ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 24, 2018(AP)

Imran Khan’s dream has finally been fulfilled 22 years in to his political career: a career that started with idealism and came to be marked by pragmatism. His real political career has just begun.

We all knew the outcome of these elections but what did surprise a lot of us was the way it was pulled off a few hours after polling ended on July 25. The results of the elections in Pakistan were pre-determined. But what happened before the final results were announced left many of us shocked at how the powers-that-be did not even want to hide how much they were influencing the results. Even in a country where manipulating elections is nothing new, this brazenness was something new altogether.

I have been in the media for more than a decade now and have seen/covered the previous two elections, but have never witnessed the kind of censorship that we faced this time around. It was as if we just couldn’t tell the truth. We had to talk in a roundabout way to say that these elections were rigged. On July 26, I remember talking to a friend and telling her that there is this sinking feeling in my stomach, as if something really bad is going to happen. She understood what I meant without me having to explain much.

When one said something to this effect, even in private settings, some would tell us that it has happened and there is nothing one can do about it, so let’s move forward. How does one move forward? How does one deal with a ‘Naya Pakistan’ full of puraanay chehray (old faces) who are adamant that they will bring ‘tabdeeli’ (change)? Apart from a couple of people, most of Khan’s cabinet has served under other governments. Before one is accused of being a cynic, one must confess that this isn’t about bitterness or cynicism but more about incredulity at the naivety of PTI’s cult-followers.

Khan’s victory speech after the elections hit all the right notes. He talked about good relations with India and Afghanistan. Like his predecessors, Khan wants good relations with India and other neighbouring countries. Like his predecessors, he will soon find out that he will not be calling the final shots vis-à-vis Indo-Pak relations. Many analysts believe that even the Pakistan Army wants good relations with India at the moment but the Modi government is unwilling in the light of the upcoming 2019 elections. We will see how things go down between the two countries next year after the general elections in India.

On the day of the elections of the PM in the National Assembly, Khan and his party were heckled by the PML-N members. Khan took the bait and fell for it. He delivered a speech not worthy of a newly elected prime minister. His first speech on the floor of the House was petulant and sounded more like his Opposition-day speeches. He wanted to punish his opponents was all one could understand from his speech. What happened to the Khan who had apparently matured and did not believe in political victimisation? He was never there, to begin with.

Maybe to counter all this criticism, in his first address to the nation, Prime Minister Khan promised the sky. Let’s hope he is able to deliver. But if you dared to criticise his speech, you were again called names.

Let me repeat something a friend said about his speech: you cannot make Pakistan a social welfare state if yours is a national security state. Khan talked about austerity but did not mention the defence budget or the lavish lifestyles and perks being enjoyed by top military officials and judiciary. These two institutions are the sacred cows of Pakistan. The less said about them, the better chance of survival for a politician and/or anyone, especially in ‘Naya Pakistan’.

Mehmal Sarfraz is a senior producer at a local television channel and freelance journalist based in Pakistan

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Aug 31, 2018 16:10 IST