It is not easy being Imran Khan Niazi. The 22nd Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan came to power in 2018 through an allegedly manipulated election with the backing of military.
Having promised to elevate the lives of 227 million Pakistanis, Imran Khan today stares at a country which is turning out to be the largest failing state — by size and by population. Helming a sinking boat with little more than a year before the General
Elections, Imran Khan and his party are unanimously acknowledged clueless by the Pakistani population and the military.
Even as Imran Khan grapples with domestic
woes, he has also been outwitted by neighbouring India which made bold strides in economy and development in Jammu and Kashmir. After the February 2019 reprisals for terrorist attacks, in the form of precision airstrikes against terrorist training camps in
Balakot (Pakistan), India realised that the state of Jammu and Kashmir itself needed a humane touch. With the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019, Jammu and Kashmir was turned into a Union Territory (UT); Ladakh carved out of it, as a separate UT. As
a consequence, the two UTs have become much easier to administer and have witnessed much peace. A spate of developmental activities — railways to electricity to industries, higher education to employment, governance to overall progress – have been
witnessed in the UTs. Pakistan suddenly realised the waning effect of its propaganda despite its implanted terror and separatist organisations.
Imran Khan went on a blitzkrieg to, what
he claimed, “educate the world of atrocities by Indian Military Forces”. Pakistan raised the issue of Article 370 in every forum of the world; its naval ships on overseas deployment made it a point to rake up the issue during port calls;
its anti-India propaganda stooped to new low as seen during the recent disinformation campaign on February 5. There was only one problem. Not only did no one buy the propaganda, but on the contrary most countries pulled up the attempted false influence
operations by Pakistan. To add to Khan’s woes, visits to Jammu and Kashmir by multiple delegations from the European Union and other countries only bolstered the facts reported by India. Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates affirmed its commitment
to investment worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Jammu and Kashmir, rubbing salt to Khan’s wounds. The international community has repeatedly called out Khan for his hypocritic silence on the genocidal treatment of Uighur Muslims by Pakistan’s
With his own house in disarray, much of the developed world finds Imran Khan’s neglect of his country and fetish for spreading a false narrative on trying to
“free Jammu and Kashmir from India” bewildering. By the end of 2021, inflation in Pakistan was about 10 per cent, according to the World Bank. The cooking oil price was up 130 per cent since Khan rode to power and the cost of fuel shot
up by 45 per cent to 145 Pakistani rupees a litre in a year. Under Khan, tax evasion seemed to have developed as a national sport for Pakistanis. In 2020, fewer than two million people paid their taxes despite a working population of approximately 50 million.
Tax receipts have been the lowest in the region, at less than 10 per cent of GDP. The Pakistani rupee also took a pounding, losing 12 per cent to the dollar since July 2021. It did not help reduce the $5-billion trade deficit, and despite forex remittances
from a vast diaspora growing nearly 10 per cent to $12.9 billion. But the biggest problem facing the Pakistani economy is servicing nearly $127 billion in debt, much of which has been courtesy China.
WHEN PROTESTS BECOME A REGULAR FEATURE
It was in 2013 that Imran Khan’s party formed the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). One
would have expected it to be the best administered or at least the province with the biggest strides in development in nearly a decade. Yet, scores of people staged a protest against the local authorities in KP for power and gas crises in Kohat city in January
this year. As per the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the protesters included civil society activists, traders, local body members and general consumers. But it wasn’t an isolated incident. “The government’s indecisiveness on
this front has disrupted Pakistan’s export volume,” said Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Mian Nasser Hyatt Maggo in a statement. Other states too suffered. Punjab region — the economic cradle
of Pakistan — reported export loss of about $250 million in textiles after mills had to be shut for 15 days due to fuel shortages in December 2021. Even Karachi witnessed mass protests as the price of fertilisers including urea skyrocketed amidst an
acute shortage and farmers were left in the lurch.
Protests were also witnessed in the port town of Gwadar. According to a Canada-based think tank, the
protests were an indication of resentment of local people against Chinese predatory policies in the area. Led by Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, Balochistan General Secretary of Jamaat-i-Islami, the people of the port city launched the ‘Gwadar ko haq
do’ (Give Gwadar its rights) movement on November 16, 2021, according to Pakistani news agencies. The major demand was to ban the illegal fishing by trawlers off the Makran Coast and to protect the rights of fishermen of Gwadar and other areas of
Balochistan, reported International Forum for Rights and Security. The protests have become a fortnightly feature now.
Imran Khan’s frustration of being
unable to get a grip on his country was apparent when as many as 1,000 vehicles were stranded as tourists reportedly rushed to view the winter snowfall in the hilltop town of Murree recently. Inept and insensitive, Khan’s government blamed
the tourists instead of initiating any rescue or relief efforts, earning the chagrin of the civil society (or at least what is left of it).
HUMILIATION ON WORLD STAGE
On the security front, Imran Khan has not been able to extricate the country out of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list because of Pakistan’s sustained
failure to arrest terror funding and training. Pakistan was placed in the grey list in 2018 — the year Khan came to power. In a monthly reminder of its terror factory that churns out terrorists on a daily basis, Malik Faisal Akram, a radicalised youth
from Pakistan, carried out deadly attacks in a synagogue at Colleyville, Dallas, Texas in January this year. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration if Pakistan was called the ‘Global Centre of Excellence for Terror Education and Sponsorship’.
Diplomatically, it couldn’t have got worse for Khan. Saudi Arabia, one of Pakistan’s largest supporter, has repeatedly snubbed Pakistan and demanded return
of its loan amount. Even when it agreed to give a $3-billion cash deposit to Pakistan for a year in November 2021, it did so with a caveat that the country would be bound to return it anytime on a three-day notice. Iran too has consistently accused Pakistan
of harbouring terrorists. Khan has not hidden his angst against US President Joe Biden for not having spoken over the telephone even once since the latter assumed office. Seen as an American snub of epic proportions, much was made of an impending Putin and
Khan meeting on the sidelines of the inaugural ceremony for the Winter Olympics earlier in February. The meeting was to be Khan’s comeback to the global diplomatic arena. Then followed a humiliating turn of events.
First the Russians denied even a discussion on the meeting of Khan with Putin. Next, when Khan and his delegation landed in China, a very junior minister (an almost nobody) from the Chinese government
received him. The worst was left for last by China. Khan and his delegation met their Chinese counterparts over a video call instead of an in-person meeting. This was even as China was to announce its phase two of colonising Pakistan under the CPEC initiative.
The humiliation was complete for Imran Khan and his delegation. Finally, as a consolation, after four days of being holed up in the hotel and after Xi Jinping had attended to other delegates, Imran Khan was provided a brief photo-op. Similarly, as a consolation
at the behest of China, Putin too invited Khan to Moscow for a bilateral meeting towards the later half of February.
Today, Imran Khan Niazi feels the curse
of being him — the leader of the largest failing state in the world. Claiming false victory in diplomacy, development, economy, education and counter-terror operations, even as Pakistan turns into the largest colony of China, are just some of Khan’s
failings. Perhaps the balance of his tenure will ensure the nails are driven firmly into the coffin. Imran Khan must be praying his last 18 months get over quickly before the Army turns him into the fall guy and conveniently disposes him for being so out of
control. Meanwhile, the world watches anxiously for the repercussions of a failing nuclear and terror state and its impact on the global community.
13 Feb 22/Sunay