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'Pakistanis see Imran Khan as the saviour'

February 16, 2024 10:04 IST
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'Imran Khan's rule was dismal. Despite this, he has become a cult figure.'
'He sold the dream of a Naya Pakistan to the people of Pakistan, especially the youth, and branded all other politicians as corrupt.'
'Hence, his popularity.'

IMAGE: Supporters of Imran Khan's party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, protest demanding free and fair results of the elections, outside the provincial election commission office in Karachi, February 11, 2024. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Shehbaz Sharif will be Pakistan's next prime minister.

His party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, was the second largest party, winning 75 seats of 266 seats in the national assembly, and he will form a government in alliance with other political parties. A key constituent of the new government will be the Pakistan People's Party which won 54 seats.

Interestingly, the people of Pakistan overwhelmingly supported jailed former prime minister Imran Khan in the elections, and independents, contesting on behalf of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, won 93 seats, the single largest group in the national assembly.

So what does Pakistan's election results mean to India, and why do the Pakistan people support Imran Khan,?

Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ spoke to Tilak Devasher, retired senior RA&W officer, and the author of acclaimed books on Pakistan.

His book Pakistan: Courting the Abyss is a must read for anyone who wants to know how the country fell into the dangerous path of Islamisation leading to permanent chaos.

Among his other books are Pakistan: At the Helm; Pakistan: The Balochistan Conundrum and The Pashtuns: A Contested History.

Were you surprised by the outcome of the elections in Pakistan?

The election results were not really a surprise given the demographics of the electorate. Almost 57 million voters or over 47% of the electorate were between the ages of 18 and 35. The PTI has been able to reach out to these young voters through a sophisticated social media campaign while the older parties, relying on traditional methods of campaigning, were not able to do so.

After seeing the outcome do you feel as common Pakistanis say in their country, they have 'selection' and not 'election'? Were these elections rigged?

The only free and fair elections in Pakistan were in 1970 that led to the break-up of the country. Since then, all elections have been rigged to ensure a result that does not lead to another division of the country.

Why do Pakistanis feel that Imran Khan is their last saviour? What did he do during his rule to gain such popularity?

Imran Khan's performance during his three-and-a-half year rule was dismal. Despite this, he has become a cult figure. He sold the dream of a Naya Pakistan to the people of Pakistan, especially the youth, and branded all other politicians who did not agree with him as corrupt. Hence, his popularity.

He also got sympathy vote due to his incarceration.

We saw at the time of President Pervez Musharraf, when he ousted the democratically elected Nawaz Sharif to become the dictator of Pakistan in 1999, there was no revolt from the people.
What has changed in 25 years that the people of Pakistan no longer want the Pakistan army to call the shots in their country?
Why are Pakistanis so disillusioned and disenchanted with the army?

The people had become disillusioned with Nawaz Sharif, that is why there were no protests. Today, because the living conditions are so bad that people are looking for a saviour. While earlier the army was the saviour, today the people see Imran Khan as the saviour.

IMAGE: Supporters of Imran Khan's party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, block a road at Baleli, on the outskirts of Quetta, February 12, 2024, to protest the results of the elections. Photograph: Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

When Imran Khan won the elections in 2018 it was widely believed that he won due because of the Pakistan army's support. What led to the fallout between him and the army?

He certainly won because of army support and rigging. He fell out with the army because he thought he had become so popular that he could take on the army.

Why did Imran Khan underestimate the Pakistan army's power and might?&

Hubris and megalomania.

Will we ever see Imran Khan coming out of jail? What future do you foresee for him?

He will eventually come out of jail. The army will keep him in case the new government gets ideas similar to the ones that Imran Khan had got.

Talha Saeed, terrorist Hafeez Saeed's son, received only 2,024 votes whereas the winner Latif Khosa backed by Imran Khan's party won 117,109 votes in Lahore. Does it mean that the people of Pakistan want peace with India and they are fed up with these terrorists?

No. It just means that as before, the religious parties have never received electoral support.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan (Fazl) has done badly in the elections. Why have Pakistanis always shunned religious parties in elections?

People are religious, but they don't want to be ruled by religious parties.

Will this coalition give a stable government to Pakistan?

Nawaz Sharif would have become PM if the PML-N had got a majority. Since there will be a coalition government, Shehbaz Sharif is better able to deal with a coalition.

Will the new government foster better relations with India?

Too early to say. The new government will have to deal with a host of domestic issues first.

When countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE are shunning the stricter Wahabbi form of Islam, why has the deep State of Pakistan not taken a cue from those countries and go in for better relations with India?
Don't they understand that their economy has collapsed, but all they want to do is spread terrorism in India rather than improve their economy?

Pakistan was formed on an ideological basis, the ideology of the two-nation theory that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together. So, hostility with India is inbuilt in their DNA.

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India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024