Imran Khan, Former Captain of the World Cup Winning Cricket Squad of Pakistan and more importantly, the Founder and Leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, a growing political outfit, is being seen these days as the man who could become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan and restore the currently jeopardized rule of law in the State. Imran has been a highly popular figure in Pakistan ever since his cricketing days but his political career till a few months back was thought not to be anything worth praising. His repeated attempts to build his party into one of the heavyweights in Pakistan failed but Imran’s popularity among the political circles in Islamabad has been on the rise ever since he and his party organized a highly successful rally. People see him as somebody who has got ideology, capability and most importantly the backing of the army to come to power. Imran himself acknowledges his growing political clout and has even predicted that his party is not only to going to win the elections but they are also going to decimate all their opponents as the elections will turn out to be a clean sweep for them.
Recently I saw an interview of Imran in which he was in conversation with veteran Indian journalist Karan Thapar and he spoke on a range of issues. Imran basically has four things on his agenda, namely, political administration, economy, terrorism and foreign policy (especially in relation to close ally cum adversary United State of America and India). Imran believes that if his party comes to power in Pakistan (and he sounds pretty confident of his party’s triumph) and if he becomes the PM then he will take control of the situation. He will be the one who will call the shots. He says that he will have the all powerful Pakistan Army and the ever conniving Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) under his control. Imran wants to be the man in control and he doesn’t even want to compromise on Pakistan’s sovereignty, therefore he will not tolerate Washington’s meddling with Islamabad’s internal affairs.
What I like about Imran is that he doesn’t want to be a puppet in either the Army’s or the ISI’s hands and therefore he has made it pretty clear that he will ensure the supremacy of the civilian government over the two powerful organizations. Imran’s economic policy of reviving Pakistan’s financial position and tackling its fiscal deficit is based on an aggressive tax plan of which I am a great admirer. Imran plans to do away with all sorts of tax exemptions (including the one on foreign remittances) and tax concessions. It is his argument that Pakistan can collect as much as Rs 2 trillion from an effective tax collection exercise which will be enough to tackle its deficit of Rs 1 trillion. He is of the opinion that the ruling regime is suffering from lack of funds because of huge amounts of tax evasion. Imran intends to put a brake on that. He wants to lead by example. He has urged all politicians to declare their assets before fighting the elections. Imran even wants to reach out to the people by shunning symbols of extravagance. He will rid politicians and bureaucrats of the heavy incentives which they get and plans to cut down on government expenditure incurred on things like maintenance of the Presidential Palace and various villas of State Governors. Not only this, he will turn such palaces into educational institutions to address the problem of education. By doing so Imran thinks that he will inspire the people to pay taxes for the benefit of Pakistan. So Imran Khan’s economic policy is not merely based on an aggressive tax plan as I stated earlier but also on a string of initiatives on his own personal part which he hopes will strike a chord with the people of Pakistan.
The next issue which is on Imran’s radar is terrorism. Imran has stated that if he’ll become the PM then he won’t allow Pakistan’s soil to be used for any kind of violent activities. Imran isn’t in the favour of breeding Mujahideen groups (which he feels gained prominence when the United States supported them in unseating USSR in Afghanistan) and wants to eliminate them. A portion of Imran’s policy of tackling terrorism appears alright to me but the more important portion of it is not only absurd but also ridiculous. Imran says he won’t take any aid from the US. He is of the opinion that Pakistan by means of taxation will arrange for enough money required to restore the economy and tackle terrorism. He feels that Washington’s aid hasn’t worked so far. A large portion of it is swallowed by officers and the rest fails to make a difference in the war against militant groups. The financial aid coming from Washington comes with a political cost too. Washington starts pressurizing Islamabad on key policy matters and tries to use it to benefit itself instead of Pakistan. Without hesitating Imran says that he will stop the aid from coming to Pakistan and will not allow USA to carry out drone attacks in Pakistan. Imran wants to deal with the problem of Pakistan-based militant groups by himself. Till now Imran’s plan appears very inspiring but the next half of it is disturbing. Imran will even push back the Pakistani army as their presence in the tribal areas is not liked by the tribals and he will assign the task of terminating the Taliban to the tribals (A thing which they have promised to Imran if he stops US’s drone attacks in the region along with the withdrawal of the Pakistani Army). Imran’s plans of tackling the Taliban in such a way appear illogical and at times imaginary to me. It’s hard to believe that tribals (fighting presumably with bows and arrows) will be able to wipe out the highly terrorizing Taliban, a group which couldn’t even be defeated by the world’s most powerful army with the best technology and the most superior kind of weapons. I think that Imran needs to make use of the Pakistan army. The tribals cannot undertake such sort of a battle. So far the Pakistan army hasn’t been clear of its stand on militant groups. After bringing the Army under the umbrella of his civilian government, Imran needs to use them to launch a war on militant groups with effective inputs and supply of intelligence from the ISI. If Imran skillfully makes use and commands control of the Army and the ISI then his government can easily tear apart militant groups like the Taliban.
On the foreign policy front, Imran has bluntly set forth his agenda. Imran has said that he wants Pakistan to be a friend of USA but not its slave. He says he will maintain healthy bilateral relations with them but will not allow them to use Pakistan as they have in the past for the sake of their own fortune at the cost of Pakistani people. As far as India is concerned, Imran wants to build trust between the two nations. He says that the leaders of the two countries should engage in dialogue directly instead of engaging through their armies or intelligence agencies. He says that once he’ll become the PM he won’t allow any terror attacks against India to be plotted on Pakistani soil but India also needs to ensure that its intelligence wings or agencies don’t give support to liberation groups in Balochistan and stop blocking their share of water as perceived by many in Pakistan. Imran feels that it is necessary to rebuild trust and confidence before addressing the contentious issue of Kashmir. He feels that the ties between the two countries need to normalize if they intend to address the Kashmir issue. He also feels that there is a need for both Pakistan and India to withdraw their armies from Kashmir as no constructive dialogue process can take place in the presence of the army. He feels that army interventions world over have never yielded results be it in the case of USA, Pakistan itself or any other country in the world. Imran wants to build healthy trade relations with India for the economic benefit of both. He is also willing to give thought to providing India with a trade route to Afghanistan via Pakistan (which India has been denied since long) as he feels that trade benefits everybody. He says that India’s growing ties with Afghanistan pose no threat to Pakistan. Imran Khan seems to be a man with a vision and he is certainly on a mission. Imran seems to have a decent ideology and plan of action; he needs to come up with a few patch ups in order to put certain faulty things in his policy into order. I strongly feel that time has come for Imran Khan to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan not because he is the best but because the people of Pakistan have run out of options and everybody else has failed. I personally want to see him as Pakistan’s premier planner.