For the last four years, Imran Khan has sought to build a Naya Pakistan but instead he has taken Pakistan down a path of economic crises, political crises, and foreign policy isolation. In a recent column Pervez Hoodbhoy lays out Khan’s legacy over the last four years:
“On democracy: depriving parliamentarians of their right to vote is a slap in the face to democracy and decency. That this violates the Constitution is clear as day. But, to be honest, worse has happened before. Four martial laws have trampled the Constitution under the boot. And, even without overt constitutional violations, crooked politicians and generals have stuffed their pockets for decades and parked their assets in unreachable places.
“On the economy: today’s galloping inflation, repeated returns to the IMF, more whitewashing of black money, dramatic fall of the rupee, and performance levels well below that of India and Bangladesh, are significant negatives. But don’t blame PTI alone. Pakistan’s systemic economic weaknesses stem from overspending on defence, elite capture of national wealth, and a hopelessly under-skilled workforce. That’s why CPEC’s new infrastructure led to insignificant industrialisation. The same would have happened in a PML-N or PPP government.
“On foreign relations: the world noticed PM Khan hailing Osama bin Laden a martyr; calling the Taliban liberators; shaking hands with Putin just before the Ukraine war; wantonly spiting the EU although it is one of Pakistan’s economic props; and sending relations with Saudi Arabia crashing down. Still, these are reversible. A new prime minister can set things right.
“On education: Khan’s toxic legacy will be nearly irreversible. While madressahs do exactly today what they have done for decades and centuries, Punjab’s regular schools now function more as madressahs and less as schools. Even the super-rich are only partly exempted. The kind of mixed-up, confused and ignorant generations that the so-called Single National Curriculum will produce is absolutely terrifying. On the higher education front, Khan has disembowelled the HEC and made it a hotbed of intrigue.
In conclusion, Hoodbhoy points out, “When Khan proclaimed Naya Pakistan would be Riyasat-i-Madina, most people thought it was a metaphor for a cleaner, more equitable Pakistan. Almost everyone failed to see the hidden text: the head of any religious state must claim divine sanction in some form. With near-daily fiery pontifications on his ideas of moral behaviour and proper dress, Khan’s ‘high vision’ is fully before us. And, just in case you are unsure whether Naya Pakistan’s head should stay or go, please remember that “only animals can be neutral”.