Beware the Return of Khan, Dark Ages Will Descend on Pakistan

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Pakistan’s 12th general elections left a lot to be desired and kept their pattern of being managed by the omnipresent military establishment. While there was a lot of criticism of the treatment of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party, some sane voices noted that Khan’s return to power would have been worse and the country is better off without him.

According to Pervez Hoodbhoy, “one knows Khan’s release will come within months or years. He will be declared innocent of crimes that he did not commit but also of those that he did. When he claws his way back to the top, a dark age will descend on Pakistan.”

First, as Hoodbhoy notes, “Let us recall the reign of Emperor Khan from August 2018 to April 2022. Surrounded by bootlickers — many of whom deserted him after May 9, 2023 — Khan filled key positions with sycophants. This included appointing a nincompoop as Punjab’s chief minister, making a rank opportunist his closest confidante, choosing a crony general to head the ISI, and dismissing the HEC chairman on flimsy grounds.”

Next, as Hoodbhoy points out, “While Khan ruled, religiously inspired terrorists felt strongly emboldened. Accommodating TTP fighters who had fled to Afghanistan, he invited them back to resettle in North Waziristan. A decade earlier, directly after the 2013 suicide attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar, he had requested TTP to open offices inside Pakistan for holding peace talks. A year later TTP massacred 141 children and teachers inside the Army Public School in Peshawar. Khan was booed by grieving parents as he tried to visit.”

Next, “‘U-turn Khan’ earned his unflattering nickname after breaking approximately 130 promises in less than four years. As just one example, weeks after publicly declaring Pakistan would never seek an IMF loan, Khan sent his financial managers to Washington to ask for one. When reminded he blustered that reneging on earlier promises is a “hallmark of great leadership”. For those who follow a Pied Piper through narrow twisted streets this may not matter but people who value consistency and truth were unconvinced.”

Further, “Khan’s tenure saw an attempt at further tightening of the draconian Peca law (now being used to suppress PTI itself), a decrease in Pakistan’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index, and a worsening of Pakis­tan’s ranking on Transparency International’s corruption perception index. As the Toshakhana and Al Qadir cases show, Mr Clean was no cleaner than the chor politicians he viciously attacked for having pocketed public monies.”

Furthermore, “The negative impact of the SNC (Single National Curriculum) is possibly Khan’s greatest disservice to Pakistan. For the first time public and private schools — all except those for the super-elite — were yoked to the madressah curriculum. The classless education he promised remains a mirage but education standards plummeted. The upcoming generation is being stuffed with religious materials but knows no skills.”

As Hoodbhoy points out, “In the minds of his blinded followers, as well as those who see the United States as the incarnation of evil, Khan’s ouster was an American conspiracy. At a public rally on March 2022, he waved a ‘secret’ document that supposedly was iron-clad proof of America calling for his eviction. But weeks later, he absolved America of blame while broadening the net of conspirators to include ‘Super-King’ Bajwa (whose tenure had been extended), Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman.”

Hoodbhoy also points out that the notion that PTI or Khan are anti-establishment is incorrect. “At a superficial level, yes. Many PTI supporters did vote against the generals. Their anti-army sentiment surfaced on May 9 when they attacked and burned military facilities. On the other hand, Khan has never expressed dismay at the army’s business, commercial, and real-estate interests nor opposed appointments of retired army officers to top administrative positions. He and the army are, to quote him, “on the same page”. His differences remain personal — some generals are for him, others against. Only animals, he famously declared, can be neutral.”

In conclusion, Hoodbhoy warns, “An election fulfils its purpose when it helps establish a representative government; enhances ability to deal with issues such as employment and allocation of resources; and brings forth individuals committed to the rule of law, decency and public service. Imran Khan’s re-emergence stands in stark contrast to these ideals, suggesting political maturity remains a distant goal for Pakistan.”

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Author: Mukhtar Ahmed