Not Cricket: Imran Khan’s “Last Over” by Aisha Mohamed
‘Pakistan does not deserve Imran Khan’. That’s what my mother had to say when the opposition parties ousted him from power. As the daughter of a Pakistani born mother and a current student of the country, it’s not the shock of a political crisis; rather that it has taken this long for matters to come to a head. Khan’s transformation from national hero and former cricket star to a viable politician running for prime minister, meant that he made plenty of enemies. With a desire to root out corruption, something which has plagued the country during the last 75 years, and a questionable and sometimes problematic foreign policy, meant that vested interests which formed the foundations of Pakistani politics was challenged - and that rocked the boat to say the very least.
It is important to address that this attack is not new to Khan by any means. In fact he has been vulnerable since the creation of his party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), translated as a Movement for Justice, which came to power in 2018. His failure to win a majority meant that he had to form a coalition government, of which has recently crumbled. Khan inherited a country with a poor financial record following a legacy of economic mismanagement, increasing debts, and a broken tax system. To deal with this, Khan increased the prices of power and fuel, whilst trying to forge an ‘independent Pakistan’, notably through turning away from US dependence and forging alliances with China and Russia instead. With a greater economic burden on the poor and problematic alliances built, widespread anger was expected - it is clear Imran Khan did not solve all the country’s problems. Yet amongst all this there was an increased confidence in his office, his commanding and charismatic presence on the world stage has led to a growing movement of international support; one which is increasingly vocal now following his removal from office.
It becomes clear that Khan’s role in power was always going to be a tricky one. His merging of Islamic values and politics has led to many of his supporters praising his style of leadership without corruption. Whilst I may not entirely believe this and question if any politician can truly be free of corruption, I can accept that his nature as a politician, in the context of Pakistani politics, is viewed as out of the ordinary. His dissolving of Parliament following the initial vote of no confidence has been viewed in two lenses. Whilst much of western media has been critiquing this as dictatorial and a corrupt way to stay in power, with the BBC even likening him to Trump, I question to what extent this is true. The dissolving of parliament would have meant that in effect Khan was calling for an early election. That is to say the future of leadership in Pakistan was to be called by the people, not by deals struck in dark chambers. For members of the opposition this was unprecedented and a pearl clutching response which threatened their way of life. In their eyes how brazen is Khan for even suggesting the future of Pakistan should be defined by its own people? Now the country has a Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, that was not voted in by the people and who will stay in power until voting occurs in August 2023.
There are also claims, by Imran Khan himself, that this is part of a wider conspiracy by the United States working to undermine his power. Whilst he has been unable to provide solid evidence for this claim, and one which I am not endorsing, anyone who has studied Pakistani history would understand this is not as far fetched as it sounds. Pakistan has consistently been treated as a vassal state since independence in 1947: there was a CIA coup in 1958 which instated the first brutal military rule under Ayub Khan, and how only five US presidents have ever visited Pakistan (Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Clinton, and Bush) all when the country was not under civilian rule. The question does rise why US aid to Pakistan increases when the country is under military dictatorships? Why is it that Joe Biden has not even rung Imran Khan? Considering the removal of US troops in Afghanistan in 2021 it would be assumed communication with a neighbouring country would have occurred. Whilst this of course stems from Khan’s own anti-American stance, it would be naive to assume he is completely wrong or completely correct. We may never know the full facts of what truly happened, but what the record shows is that these claims, with the given history, are not unreasonable.
There are some who want Imran Khan back and others who want him gone for good. The country is divided. My views of Pakistan are ultimately shaped by my mother and more importantly by living abroad and not physically under the different regime changes. It would be ignorant of me to claim one political party is better than the other when this is a decision that lies with the people of Pakistan themselves and them only. Regardless of what the future holds it is clear that Khan is not taking a step away from the political limelight anytime soon. Just as Khan told his cricket team to ‘fight like cornered tigers’ when all seemed to be lost in their 1992 World Cup, it appears this cricket legend will be doing the same when it comes to defending his political record in a set of new elections.