Imran’s comeback to be Pakistan’s setback: Wall Street Journal

imran khan

The political landscape of Pakistan remains uncertain as former Prime Minister Imran Khan, convicted and imprisoned for corruption nearly four months ago, becomes the focal point of national attention. According to a piece published in The Wall Street Journal, Khan’s supporters view him as the country’s last hope despite opposition to his potential return to power.

The journal argues that Khan’s triumph, if it occurs, would not signify a revival but rather accelerate the decline of the nuclear-armed nation with a population of 240 million. At 71 years old, Khan’s widespread appeal stems from his diverse public roles, including a cricketing career, philanthropy, and a prominent political presence, creating one of the most influential political brands in Pakistan’s history.

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Known for personal integrity in a political landscape often lacking it, Khan, who was educated at Oxford and previously married to British heiress Jemima Goldsmith, maintains an expression of his religious devotion. His tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022 saw him addressing “Islamophobia” at the United Nations and criticising nations like France and the Netherlands for , for what he saw as unfair attacks on Islam.

Despite Khan’s popularity, WSJ notes that Pakistan’s political landscape involves more than just the voters’ choices, as the establishment plays a significant role. Khan’s falling-out with the former army chief in 2022 led to a loss of power, and his subsequent arrest sparked protests and a media blackout. Facing around 200 legal cases, including corruption charges, Khan’s eligibility for parliamentary seats or the premiership is contingent on a successful appeal against his conviction.

While challenging the establishment might end the career of most politicians, for Khan, it could enhance his narrative of righteous suffering. Even if he cannot run for office, a victory for his party in the upcoming election may pave the way for his return to power.

However, the article cautions against such an outcome, arguing that Khan’s messianic populism represents a dead end for Pakistan. His promises of a fresh start, according to the journal, amount to a repackaging of failed ideas, including pan-Islamism, anti-Americanism, and left-wing economics. A Khan victory, the journal contends, would damage Pakistan’s ties with the US and jeopardize its relationship with the International Monetary Fund.

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Khan’s focus on the Kashmir issue is criticised as hindering progress in the region, preventing Pakistan from establishing peaceful relations with its larger neighbor, India. With domestic challenges such as surging terrorism, stagnant per capita income, high inflation, and a growing number of jobless citizens seeking opportunities abroad, The Wall Street Journal argues that Pakistan needs pragmatic leadership focused on addressing these issues rather than charismatic advocacy of outdated ideologies.

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