IRSHAD SALIM (ISLAMABAD) –The newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s interview with
Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT World is a must-watch for those not addicted with binary results and telegraphic positioning in the practice of nation-building albeit statecraft.
From US and China relations with Pakistan and Asia Bibi to corruption, rule of law, and India and Kashmir, the country’s head has articulated his government’s positions which many observers consider well-crafted, pragmatic and syncing with prioritization of national interests.
Critics of Imran Khan however have their own reasons to be bent out of shape. Being a dreamer, hard worker ain’t enough. The son-of-a-b****h thing is amiss in him—something traditionally accepted as an all important joker in the pack. To rule and not govern (with accountability) the country of 207 million with a huge youth and female bulge–Khan’s constituency driver–has been the standard operating procedure and daily rituals of side-bar deals the normal.
Therefore, Khan is the oddball and as he’s driving a square peg in a round hole–many say it’s a round peg and a squared hole situation. More difficult. Nevertheless, that a new normal he has been elected to bring in, and it is slowly emerging incrementally though beset with a huge yoke (debt burden) that is making the holy cow (fiscal management) blow nose in the middle of the pit-stop.
In the process, he has attracted brickbats for understandable reasons. The space is shrinking with kind of no way out thing for the traditionalists as the non-conformist and the “rebel” is seemed to be walking his talk.
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However, in such a battlefield situation, smokescreens and crossfires make it difficult to figure out who’s winning, unless people watching things from vantage point, unbiased to the hilt, pull up their binoculars to stake out the zone.
A Long March (of new mind set) is happening, many thought-leaders say–brewing like the coffee-beans in the Starbucks and the Qawa in the Sattar Baksh. So there’s no Waterloo nor a Stalingrad–this battle of wits and wisdom between thoughts, ideas, vision based on common sense and natural law versus the hyperbole is tick-tack-toing on the wall one day at a time–sans style, demeanor, etiquette, protocols, etc. and the nation doesn’t care as long as the end can justify the means (Management By Objective (MBO)).
Here are some to discern:
Asked about US-Pakistan relations, the premier was blunt to say Washington has been pointing its finger at Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan. “There is no military solution to the Afghanistan issue, and dialogue is the only way forward to resolve the conflict”–this dovetails his “Pakistan will only partner with the US for peace and not war” big bang statement in September.
Candidly, Khan lamented that over the period, Pakistan developed a dependency syndrome for which the country has paid a heavy cost in the shape of suicide attacks, terrorism and huge economic and human losses. He can’t be blamed for the carcasses though.
He also in a frankly-my-dear-style (Gone With the Wind) said that China has cooperated with Pakistan in a number of areas, which he cannot even disclose because China wants Pakistan to keep the details of aid confidential, he added.
Khan also pointed out that state institutions had not been independent and instead controlled by the corrupt rulers in the past. He said under his government (not rule), all state institutions are being freed of political pressure and empowered to take action against anyone regardless of their political affiliation.
He’s probably the first where the buck stops to differentiate between “our government” and “state institutions”–a new narrative hard to gulp by his political opponents and critics.
Therefore, going forward we can expect growing pains and hiccups but not a Halloween. That’s because a Reagan-style donned with Trump armory is at work here. This is making Khan a newsmaker in the region and across the Atlantic.
(The writer is a business consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb and DesPardes presently based in Islamabad)