A New Dawn
Imran Khan’s 22-year struggle to bring down the status-quo duopoly of dynastic family politics in Pakistan finally stood vindicated on July 25.
Under his stewardship, his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will form a majority coalition government having secured more than 110 National Assembly seats against PML-N’s 64 seats and PPP’s 43 seats in the National Assembly.
PTI will have to align with many independent and opposing party members to secure a democratic mandate to govern which is currently in motion.
Many analysts were predicting that the election would result in a coalition set up and that PTI will gain a considerable increase in the votes in 2018 compared to 2013.
Few had envisaged the seismic shift that ensued with PTI sweeping the election in an unprecedented scale with a 14.95% swing in their favour from the 2013 election where they secured only 35 seats.
When analysts refer to Pakistan, they cannot ignore the famous acronym of “AAA” pertaining to “Allah, Army and America” as the core levers of power that play a pivotal role in the dynamics of Pakistani politics.
In the 2018 election, the religious card was being played out by many of the mainstream and newly found fringe parties such as Tehreek Labbaik which was initially able to galvanise support following street protests and diplomatic pressures over a hastily-abandoned change in the oath of elected representatives.
Imran Khan constantly referred to Sufi doctrines and Islamic ethics in his campaign speeches focusing on human, spiritual, intellectual and economic development.
Whilst the narrative of the Pakistan Army allegedly having influenced the election result does not boast well in many quarters, there is the counter argument that by having the oversight of the army in the 2018 election reduced the probability of ulterior practices that are commonly employed by the conventional status quo political parties to manipulate the outcome of the election result in their favour considerably and it is this that titled the pendulum in favour of PTI in the polling booths.
Independent observers such as European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) Pakistan 2018 deemed the election as satisfactory, and concluded by stating:
“Positive changes to the legal framework were overshadowed by restrictions on freedom of expression and an unequal opportunity to campaign. Media outlets and journalists suffered from restrictions which, the mission stated, have resulted in self-censorship.”
Imran Khan in his inaugural victory address to the nation as prime minister-in-waiting did state that he is willing to cooperate with all the opposition parties to investigate allegations of corrupt practices during the election which is a step forward from the 2013 election when the boot was on the other foot with PTI demanding an election recount in selected provinces which was ignored for a considerable period of time by PML-N government.
The unequal opportunity to campaign observation by EUEOM most likely pertains to the fact that former PM Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were behind bars for corruption charges and hence unable to fully partake in the election campaign.
The importance and role of America in the 2018 election was probably not given the same credence as previous elections primarily because China’s engagement with Pakistan vis a vis CPEC currently trumps that of the US.
However, the importance of the role and China and the US moving forward cannot be negated and as was pointed out by Imran Khan in his victory address to the nation where he is keen to develop a balanced foreign policy relationship with the US based on dignity, self-respect and not that of a client- master engagement.
As Imran Khan awaits to be anointed as PM of Pakistan, he has begun to jockey his key senior cabinet members into ministerial postings including that of the foreign minister which was vacant during the tenure of PML-N.What is immediately apparent is that the in-tray briefs that Imran Khan is inheriting from the former government places Pakistan in a critical position at multiple levels.
The Pakistani rupee has depreciated by a total of 15% against the US dollar since December 2017 however there is an expectation of growth potential based on ongoing improvement in energy supply and physical infrastructure.
Imran Khan, during his election campaign frequently referred to Malaysia as one of Asia’s tiger economies that showed immense growth in the 1990’s under the premiership of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the behest of the IMF and who has now miraculously returned to power as PM of Malaysia for the second time.
Some economic analysts have suggested that Pakistan may have to resort to the IMF to balance its books as Pakistan has a sizeable current account deficit of 4.6% of GDP and the PTI government has set out an ambitious reform agenda for the first 100 days touching on aspects of governance, economic growth, agricultural, conservation of water and social reforms which will be taking place under the backdrop of the NAB accountability drive whose catalyst is the now infamous Panama Leaks to kick start the revival programme for Pakistan under PTI.
It is imperative that the NAB accountability drive that has seen symbolic figure heads such as Nawaz Sharif get toppled and with many more leading figures in the pipeline continues with full force and does not come to an abrupt halt as what happened when Parvez Musharraf came to office in the late 90’s.
Imran Khan showed the eye of the tiger spirit when he stewarded Pakistan to World Cup victory in 1992. He has shown the same spirit by setting up a new party in PTI and acquiring enough seats to form a new government.
The key innings lies ahead where PTI, which has been in opposition since inception will be in government for the first time and time will tell whether Imran Khan can replicate the eye of the tiger spirit which worked wonders to help Malaysia become an Asian tiger economy in the 1990s in Pakistan.
One thing is for sure, Imran Khan must now be given the opportunity and space to play his innings in government before any preempted scrutiny commences.