Imran Khan: The Rising Star Over Battered Pakistan
Pakistan can now be called the land of emerging crisis. Not even a week passes without a political crisis threatening to shatter its political firmament emerges.
It was only quite recently that the Pakistan Supreme Court made theunique order to the then Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to re-open the case against President Asif Zardari on the latter’s million dollar deposits in Swiss banks. Zardari’ is also the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Gilani’s political boss as well.
Gilani refused to comply with order of the Supreme Court and was convicted on the charge of Contempt of Court. Subsequently Gilani was sacked as prime minister on orders of the Supreme Court for failing to comply with its orders.
A new Prime Minister Raja Perez Ashraf of the PPP was appointed to replace Gilani but last, on Wednesday the Supreme Court gave the new prime minister two weeks to indicate whether he would ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Zardari. Justice Nasir Ul Mulk is reported saying: The new prime minister was elected during the weekend and we trust he will honour the direction by the court.
No doubt Pakistanis will be anxiously awaiting the decision that is to be made by the new prime minister and it is quite likely that he will follow Gillani’s course of action. What follows then? Is the Supreme Court to continue sacking prime ministers for not following its order? Certainly this kind of judicial activism is unprecedented in any part of the world. Some political analysts have said that this muscle flexing by the Supreme Court could force elections to be held before February next year when the terms of the Zardari government ends.
Jail bird as president
Zardari is has been behind bars before for convictions in financial racketeering and was freed following a deal worked out by the United States administration with former President Pervez Musharraf granting him a reprieve. He was propelled into presidency by an assassin’s bullet which felled his wife Benazir Bhutto.
The elections that followed resulted in Zardari’s election—not because of his popularity but that of his slain wife Benazir, twice elected prime minister and the PPP being the family party established by Benazir’s father Prime Minister Zulficar Ali Bhutto (who was hanged by President Zia-ul- Haq who seized power.)
Pakistan has not only been unfortunate with the turbulent and violent domestic politics but also been struck with natural disasters of floods and earthquakes of immense magnitude. Of greater disaster has been that it has become the nursery of fundamentalist terrorism which is plaguing the country itself. The greatest of woes that has befallen the country is the falling out with its long term ally, the United States. The US funded Pakistan with billions of dollars for supporting the Afghan Mujahideen when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan and later followed it up when President George W Bush decided to track down Osama bin Laden and his al-Quaeda who were being hosted by the fundamentalist Taliban which had taken over the country.
Afghan terrorist groups seeking safe heavens in Pakistan resulted in friction between the US and Pakistan militaries. The Pakistan military’s intelligence wing, is attributed to have assisted in the birth of the Taliban and the United States have accused the Pakistan’s military of collaborating with the Taliban including al-Quaeda. US-Pak relations reached a flashpoint when US Navy Seals raided a hideout of bin Laden in Pakistan and killed him sans any intimation to the Pakistan authorities.
There has been a steady deterioration of relations between the two countries particularly on Americans deploying its robot planes, the Drones, to kill al Quaeda operatives in hideouts on the Afghan-Pak border but resulting in the deaths of many civilians. Pakistan in retaliation has stopped overland supplies to American troops in Afghanistan passing through their country.
Improved US-Pak relations?
US-Pak relations hit rock bottom but last weeks meeting of Pakistan’s Army commander Gen. Kayani with the Commander of the ISAF(International Security Association Force) under NATO is reported to have gone off well and the dialogue between the ISAF and Pakistan forces would continue reports said. He apology tendered by the US for the killing of 28 Pakistani soldier in a helicopter attack on the security outpost Salala on the Pak-Afghan border seems to have cooled heated tempers. Pakistani politicians having led the country to disaster are now a discredited lot with politicians of neither of the two main parties the PPA nr the Muslim League led y former Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff having much credibility with the people.
Enter Imran Khan
A rising star today over battered Pakistan is a man most unlikely Pakistani politician, Cricket captain Imran Khan. Imran started his politics about a decade ago in a quiet way and was described only as a ‘one man show’. Suddenly he appears to be drawing massive unprecedented crowds to his rallies.
The footages of TV form international TV channels such as Al Jazeera show this plain talking man who has diagnosed the basic fault with Pakistani politics: Corruption. He has been hammering at it for years and now it appears to have sunk into despondent Pakistanis. His party Pakistan Tahreel Isuf (PTI) has as its slogan : Justice, Harmony and Self Esteem.
The outspoken spokesman despite his Western orientation (playing cricket for Oxford University and other English country clubs) lashes out at the role played by Americans in Pakistan.
His marriage (now divorced) to Jemima Goldsmith the daughter of a wealthy Jewish British businessman did not cause a backlash against him in the country steeped in Islam. The suave cricketer who led his country to win the World Cup carries himself with aplomb in politics as in cricket.
A survey by the International Research Organisation PEW has shown that he is today the country’s most popular politician.
The survey gave him 70per cent popularity as against 62 for former President Nawaz Shariff, 45 per cent for army commander Kayani, 26 per cent for Gilani and only 14 per cent for President Zardari.
Khan mixes his cricket well with politics. An Al Jazeera TV documentary showed him drawing a thunderous ovation from a Karschi crowd when he decalred: I led the Pakistan team to India and we triumphed despite Indian umpires!.