In recent months, I have had conversations with my fellow Pakistanis in the United States about the uncertainty surrounding Pakistan’s politics and economy. It was amazing to me that most of them still support the artist they used to call “Captain”. Imran Khan keeps capturing the imagination of these expat Pakistanis.
A very successful and intelligent Pakistani finance professional told me that “Imran Khan is the only person who will stand up to the army and save Pakistan from bankruptcy.” Never mind that Imran Khan himself is a product of the military (indeed, the vast majority of Pakistani politicians are) and he has failed to rein in the military despite his best efforts during his failed first term. Pakistanis who think this way, however enthusiastic and well-intentioned, seem oblivious to the fact that one of the reasons we are in danger of bankruptcy is the fuel subsidies that Imran Khan has imposed on his government. leaving. These subsidies further damaged the state treasury at a critical moment and contributed to the termination of the agreement with the IMF. It was an economically reckless decision and a ploy to sabotage the new government and gain popular support. It was not the work of a leader who puts the interests of the state before his own.
The next PDM government had to withdraw this subsidy, but by then the damage was already done. It’s the same kind of irrationally misplaced goodwill that inspires Donald Trump supporters who still think Trump will “drain the swamp,” and he actually did with his election. Later, he moved this swamp with him to Washington. As Trump’s supporters believe that he is the only solution to the problems, many Pakistanis still think that Imran Khan will somehow save Pakistan’s economy. It is a defensive retreat into fantasy before the inescapable reality that Imran Khan is perhaps even more narcissistic and incompetent than the other incompetent and stupid leaders who have tried and failed to lead Pakistan.
Another group of less sophisticated foreigners think that Imran Khan will be successful because he is “not corrupt and not trying to get rich” as the Bhutto/Zardari and Sharif families have shamelessly done. It is true that Imran Khan is not corrupt, but a man is known by his company. In Imran Khan’s case, these circles consist of the same corrupt, marginal profiteers who are complicit with the army and have been a stain on Pakistan’s unjust politics since its inception. He continued to plunder the country with the army, under the supervision of Imran Khan, and when he saw that the going was getting tough, he left the army and eventually fell on the wrong side of the military establishment.
However, these two types of Pakistani factions living abroad are right that if elections are held tomorrow, Imran Khan will be wiped out. He is undoubtedly the most popular politician in the country and has mobilized countless youths who would not have been interested in politics if not for Imran Khan. At the same time, she unwittingly exposed Pakistan’s real puppet masters, its voracious and biased military and, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, behind-the-scenes elites in military uniform to public grief and made it the center of anger.
Those who support Imran Khan have legitimate grievances against the failed ruling class and elite-based establishment and see Imran Khan as their last hope. This is a similar effect that Bernie Sanders had on people born in the 1980s and Gen Z in America. The difference is that Bernie Sanders actually has progressive, pro-worker, really populist policies. Imran Khan is an incompetent, immature, socially conservative, right-wing populist figure. He is like a cult leader whose track record proves that he cares more about his ego than the country. We can be sure that if he receives confirmation of acceptance from the military establishment again, he will be even more assertive than the one standing before him because, like all narcissists, he cares most. He seeks power and prioritizes his personal glory and legacy.
Also, unlike Bernie Sanders, Imran Khan’s politics do not take into account the class analysis of the problems facing Pakistan. Pakistan stands at a crossroads. Instead of looking for a solution to another authoritarian-minded strongman and the same old neoliberal policies, the answer to Pakistan’s problems lies in returning power to the country’s working-class people. For example, power and authority should be handed over to the people through local grassroots organizations of genuine leftist and socialist political parties such as Mazdoor Kisan Party, Awami Kalk Party and Awami Workers Party. Imran Khan belongs to the elite class, me and my financial professional friend also belong, no one from this class can be expected to fix the affairs of Pakistan.
Pakistan is economically, politically and philosophically bankrupt. What it needs is a new model; A true people-power government led by working-class leaders like Lula da Silva in Brazil, mandated by the majority of the people, could implement progressive policies such as raising property taxes, which is the safest and the most profitable form of investment for the Pakistani elite. Such a movement would also usher in much-needed land reforms to end stereotypical and age-old agrarian monopolies. This movement will invest in providing health and education facilities for workers instead of buying F-16 jets and will fight against the neoliberal institutions that dominate Pakistan’s economy. For example, by changing the disastrous business conditions with the private power generation companies (IPPs) which are the main cause of recurrent power shortages resulting in countless lost days of production and private. The profits of the companies are decreasing and this has pushed Pakistan towards darkness and destruction of the industrial sector.
Real change comes only when millions of workers demand it and when these people demand justice. Then influential people will have no choice but to respond to this request. In the end, the only force that will save Pakistan is the people of Pakistan, not the army, not the elites, not the businessmen, not the neoliberal economists or the cult of personality, but the working class people of the country. Otherwise, like all of Potemkin’s temporary villages, this change would prove unsustainable.
This article by Arsalan Malik was published in The Friday Times, which has been translated and presented here for New Age Urdu readers.