See More on Facebook

Analysis, Politics

Why it may not be a smooth sail for Pakistan’s Imran Khan

The going may not be easy for Pakistan’s Prime Minister-designate Imran Khan – seen as the army’s “puppet” – and with questions over the fairness and transparency of the polling process.


Written by

Updated: +00

Cricketing legend turned politician Imran Khan is all set to take oath as Pakistan Prime Minister on August 11.

The July 25 election brought him to power but also left his party short of a clear parliamentary majority. Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won 115 of the 272 seats. It has since enough partners – from smaller parties and independents – to form a government. The party will formally nominate Khan as prime minister in a meeting today (August 26). The parliamentary committee is also expected to decide the names of federal cabinet members in the meeting to be chaired by Khan.

Naya (new) Pakistan

Khan formed PTI in 1996 to bat for his vision of “naya (new) Pakistan” in this cricket-crazy subcontinent. Khan, whose popularity peaked after the World Cup win for Pakistan in 1992, has since successfully employed cricketing jargon in his campaigns.

However, political observers attribute his current success to pre-polling orchestration and support from Pakistan’s supremely powerful military.

The going may not be easy for Khan – seen as the army’s “puppet” – with questions over the fairness and transparency of the polling process. Leaders of the country’s top political parties held a meeting on August 2 and have already announced to bring in their own prime minister and speaker.

The leaders of various political parties – including the two biggest Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif’s and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of assassinated prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s now helmed by her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari – attended the multi-party conference (MPC) and announced to approach Parliament to form the government with their chosen representatives.

PML-N’s senior leader Ahsan Iqbal said that opposition parties will field Nawaz’s brother Shehbaz Sharif, the three-time Punjab chief minister and current PML-N president, as their candidate against Khan. 

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Senator Sherry Rehman, said the opposition parties have formed a joint working committee to chalk out the future strategy to give a tough time to the next government, Dawn reported. The PPP leader also said the parties would jointly release a white paper within a few days and that a working committee had already been formed for this.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), too, has directed the Cabinet Division to form an inquiry committee to investigate the causes of alleged failure of the Result Transmission System (RTS) during July 25 general elections.

Journalist and Khan’s ex-wife (second wife) – Reham Khan – in a recently written memoir says the plot to put him in power by the army was hatched two or three years ago

She called Imran Khan an “ideal puppet” of the military establishment in Pakistan and that he had benefited from “rigged” elections.

Right after Khan’s win, Reham who has been in the news since the publication of her memoir, told the Hindu newspaper that Khan would carry out foreign policy, including with India, according to the wishes of the military if he becomes prime minister. In her controversial book, she portrayed the former cricketer as a libertarian, unstable and power-hungry politician.

Foreign Policy 

In his maiden speech after claiming victory, Khan vowed to tackle corruption that was eating Pakistan “like a cancer” and touched on promises to balance relations with the US that would be “beneficial” for both countries, Dawn reported.

Khan also said he was open to a sit-down with India to discuss the Kashmir issue. Pakistan has been facing pressure from the US and has been placed on the “grey list” of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

The country’s army has increasingly sought to control Pakistan’s foreign policy, especially its relationships with India, Afghanistan, the US, Iran and the Gulf States – and Khan is expected to very much toe the line.

Khan was congratulated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his win. There were reports that Modi would be invited for the swearing-in ceremony – raising hopes for peace in the subcontinent and also a chance for the much-loved India-Pakistan matches.

However, Modi or Khan’s former cricketing friends from India Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Bollywood superstar Imran Khan – are not among the invitees anymore.

This was confirmed by PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry. “The PTI chairman has directed to stage the oath-taking event with austerity,” said. “He will take his oath in a simple ceremony at Aiwan-e-Sadr (President House).”

“It has been decided that no foreign personalities will be invited to the ceremony – it will be a completely national event. Only a few close friends of Imran Khan will be invited,” he added, stated a report in Dawn.

India’s ties with Pakistan have been at a diplomatic low since the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, which Pakistan blamed on non-state actors, even though a bonafide Pakistani Ajmal Kasab was arrested and later hanged for carrying out the attacks along with others. India has long accused Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba of carrying out the attacks in Mumbai on 26 November, 2008, that left 166 people dead and many injured after 10 terrorists with backpacks, automatic weapons and grenades launched a three-day siege on India’s financial capital targeting multiple locations. 

“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” Dawn reported Sharif as saying.

In India, most critics are cynical about a change in Indo-Pak relations – mostly because of Khan’s changing persona to fulfil his ambition to be prime minister. With India’s general elections due in less than a year, it will be interesting to see how Khan tackles the crucial Indo-Pak relations.

The China factor remains significant – with much at stake in one of China’s largest overseas investments – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Even though China refuses to label Pakistan’s Masood Azhar as a global terrorist much to India’s chagrin, it will have to work a way out given its changing relations with India post last year’s Doklam crisis, which saw India-China relations at its lowest.

How Khan’s relation with China pans out is important. The PTI was extremely critical of the CPEC, Khan even staged a sit-in against it a couple of years ago. However, he may have had a change of heart since – with China being the first country he chose to mention in his maiden speech after his election victory.

Most urgently what Khan will have to do is to bail out Pakistan’s economy. And for this, he will need China on its side. Its foreign exchange reserves have dwindled from US$17.5 billion in April to US$9.66 billion in June. Economic growth has slowed, the rupee has been devalued and Pakistan is seeking a US$12 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Lamat R Hasan
About the Author: Lamat is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Politics

Korea to produce 6.2 million hydrogen cars by 2040

President Moon stresses government’s determination to make transition to a hydrogen economy. South Korea will produce 6.2 million units of fuel cell electric vehicles and build 1,200 refilling stations across the country by 2040, in a major industrial push aimed at securing energy independence and assuming a leadership role in hydrogen technology. The Seoul government will also support the industrial and domestic use of fuel cells for electricity and develop ships, trains and construction machinery powered by hydrogen, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement.In its road map announced Thursday, the government said it would diversify the hydrogen supply portfolio, increase the supply volume to 5.26 million tons in the next 20 years and lower the market price of the energy source to less than 3,000 won per kilogram. The road map was announced in Ulsan, a southeastern industrial cit


By The Korea Herald
January 18, 2019

Analysis, Politics

What does Vietnam’s new cyber law mean for online dissent?

Will Facebook kowtow to the Vietnamese government to keep its market share. Facebook is in violation of a Vietnamese new cybersecurity law by allowing its users to post content critical of the communist government on its platform, the Ministry of Information and Communication announced on Wednesday of last week. The news came just days after the law went into effect on Jan. 1. The new legislation requires internet companies to comply with government demands to remove user-posted material it doesn’t like. The law also stipulates that information technology companies—Facebook and Google for instance—may be required to set up local offices and store customer data domestically, a feature which human rights advocates worry might make it easier for the government to track and charge dissidents for their online activities. This new legislation follows a pattern of increasing digital scrutiny by th


By Quinn Libson
January 15, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Xi: Step up fight against corruption

The president calls for more measures to be taken against corruption. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, called on Friday for all-around efforts to fight corruption and improve the nation’s oversight system to secure even greater strategic outcomes in full and strict governance over the Party. Xi, China’s president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remark at the third plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in Beijing. The sweeping victory that has been secured in the anti-graft campaign must be consolidated by strengthening deterrence so that officials “don’t dare to, are unable to and have no desire to” commit acts of corruption, Xi said. To this end, anti-corruption efforts in financial fields should be stepped up, particularly in key projects, areas and posi


By China Daily
January 14, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Fugitive Jho Low says no connection between 1Mdb and China

Jho Low rubbishes Wall Street Journal report about China’s alleged role in 1MDB probe. Fugitive businessman Jho Low has dismissed a report by the Wall Street Journal linking China to Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB as “a continuation of a trial by media” led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The Journal said in a report on Monday (Jan 7) that senior Chinese leaders offered in 2016 to help bail out 1Malaysia Development Berhad or 1MDB, which is at the centre of a swelling, multi-billion-dollar graft scandal. The report cited minutes from a series of previously undisclosed meetings. Chinese officials told visiting Malaysians that China would use its influence to try to get the United States and other countries to drop their probes of allegations


By The Straits Times
January 10, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Malaysian rulers to pick new king by the month’s end

Previous king stepped down in unprecedented move on Sunday. Malaysia’s Conference of Rulers will meet in about two weeks’ time to elect the country’s new constitutional monarch and his deputy after the King, Sultan Muhammad V, stepped down on Sunday in an unprecedented move. The 16th King, or Supreme Ruler, and his deputy will be sworn in at the end of the month, Keeper of the Royal Seal Syed Danial Syed Ahmad said in a press statement. Yesterday morning, six of Malaysia’s nine ruling monarchs held a meeting at the national palace, Istana Negara, following Sultan Muhammad’s decision to step down as the Malaysian King. “The rulers att


By The Straits Times
January 8, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Seat belt warning as storm clouds loom in 2019

A look at potential headlines in 2019 by the Straits Times’ Warren Fernandez. You have been here before. As you settle into your comfortable seat for the long flight ahead, a voice crackles from the cockpit. “Our flying time today will be 12 hours, 40 minutes, and we expect a smooth journey ahead, but there looks to be some pockets of turbulence along the way,” your captain says, sounding vaguely assuring. “We suggest you keep your seat-belt on.” So was said on my recent Singapore Airlines flight home from holidaying abroad. It prompted several hours of meandering musings from 30,000 feet in the air about what lies ahead in the New Year. Some of the storm clouds that appear to loom on the political horizon include: 1. US-China: rivalries among frenemies Three recent developments sum up the precarious state of relations between the world’s two main powers, now on a tentative


By The Straits Times
January 7, 2019