Pakistan declined in numerous areas during the first year of Imran Khan’s presidency, particularly in the areas of the economy and human rights.
It has been a year since Imran Khan was elected as prime minister of Pakistan following what many consider to be the most unfair general election in the nation’s 73-year history. Opposition parties and outside observers claim that the all-knowing Pakistani military was responsible for the former cricketer’s victory.
The “Naya (new) Pakistan” campaign slogan was Imran Khan’s, yet a year into his premiership, he is still far from creating a new Pakistan. What’s worse, the nation has degraded under his leadership in several areas, namely the economy, political stability, and the country’s human rights record.
In his first year in office, Imran Khan also broke several campaign promises. He was forced to publicly defend his record after these reversals earned him the embarrassing moniker “U-turn Khan” and earned him the statement: “A leader who does not do ‘U-turns’ [in the best interests of the nation] is not a real leader.”
None of Imran Khan’s numerous U-turns, though, have benefited Pakistan in any manner.
Imran Khan’s Government’s Economic Downturn
Imran Khan’s worst economic mistake to date has been the spiraling depreciation of the national currency, which has lost 35% of its value in just one year. The situation deteriorated to the point where Khan was forced to reorganize his ministerial team and fire the finance minister he had long promoted as the answer to Pakistan’s financial problems.
In his campaign platform, Imran Khan pledged to turn around Pakistan’s faltering economy without taking out any loans from abroad. However, his administration exceeded all prior records by taking on $16 billion in debt in just one fiscal year, the most ever since Pakistan was founded in 1947.
The nation’s economic growth rate has also decreased during the past year, falling to 3.3 percent, the lowest level in nine years. The government’s trade and fiscal deficits are still growing.
Imran Khan is aware that the issue with raising money is that many wealthy people in this nation do not pay taxes. However, the wealthy continue to evade taxes and show no sign of doing so, forcing the poor to pay more indirect taxes and causing more hardship and unhappiness among the general public.
Imran Khan is aggravating the nation’s political unpredictability and contributing to the nation’s financial collapse, which is already harming the economy.
Keeping the opponents quiet Imran Khan
Before assuming office, Imran Khan frequently said that corrupt politicians who had hidden their wealth overseas and made empty promises to bring it back were to blame for the country’s stagnation. He did pursue some of these politicians once in office, but the authorities have not received any meaningful responses.
A lot of Imran Khan’s party’s corrupt members have also escaped investigation. Additionally, it has lately been asserted that the “accountability” judges in some cases were coerced into convicting Imran Khan’s political rivals despite a lack of convincing proof of wrongdoing. Due to all of this, Imran Khan’s accountability campaign was widely criticized in Pakistan as a political witch hunt intended to silence the opposition.
The military and the government have also used other accusations over the past year to accuse and silence opposition members. For instance, Rana Sanaullah, a well-known lawmaker and outspoken critic of Khan’s administration, was recently detained by the military-run anti-drug agency on suspicion of drug trafficking. A few days before his arrest, Sanaullah had foreseen his custody, saying that the administration was debating whether to hold him on what grounds.
The largest province in the nation, Punjab, had a people’s movement as a result of this wave of political crackdowns. On July 25, thousands of people demonstrated against the new administration’s crackdown on dissenting viewpoints around Pakistan, led by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the imprisoned former prime minister’s daughter.
Recently, Ms. Sharif used social media to invite people to join her movement if they want to “live in a free, democratic, and just Pakistan.” She said on Twitter that she would be organizing protests across Pakistan that call for the rule of law, freedom of speech, an end to the system’s manipulation to penalize public officials, the theft of the people’s mandate, and the imposition of her chosen.
However, a government determined to silence any dissenting voice harms more than just Pakistani journalists.
The Nawaz-led primary march in the city of Quetta, however, was not broadcast by Pakistani media, despite some of the opposition protests being covered live by domestic news television channels in Pakistan. A federal cabinet decree earlier this month prohibiting coverage of opposition party leaders who are being looked into for corruption was the cause of the blackout.
Few journalists are willing to defy the demands of the government in Pakistan given the growing decline in media liberties. Three news outlets were forced off the air earlier this month for defying the cabinet’s directive and covering a press conference by Ms. Sharif, a troubling sign of the present administration’s authoritarian tendencies.
Attacking activists for human rights Imran Khan
Authorities in Pakistan also target human rights advocates who speak out in favor of the rule of law and citizens’ rights. As a result of her support for the Pashtun population, Pakistan’s second-largest ethnic group, through the Pashtun Tahaffuz (protection) Movement, or PTM, award-winning women’s rights activist Gulalai Ismail is currently in hiding.
Since 9/11, the Pakistan Army has been conducting operations in the tribal region close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border without the involvement of the civilian government. PTM has been protesting for more than a year, calling for accountability for these acts.
However, rather than giving in to their demands, the military and the government launched an offensive against the movement, forcing the media to ignore all of their demonstrations and detaining its leaders.
Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, two of the movement’s legislators, were recently detained for allegedly storming a military checkpoint, even though video evidence of the incident amply demonstrates that the troops fired first as they passed through with a group of unarmed protesters.
Before taking office, Khan made an appearance at a PTM rally and pledged to further the cause of the movement. He even ran his years-long campaign against Pakistani military operations, blaming the leadership’s choice to work with the US to impose the so-called war on terror, which caused Pashtun suffering.
But as soon as he became prime minister, he quickly forgot his commitments and turned his back on the Pashtun cause.
He now appears to be taking the same course as other administrations, emphatically endorsing the Pakistani military’s operations in the tribal area. Additionally, he recently visited the US for the first time as prime minister and committed to cooperate with Washington “to establish peace and economic stability in South Asia,” seemingly forgetting how he had charged Washington with sabotaging Pakistan’s peace.
So why, after just a year in office, has Imran Khan taken so many U-turns and essentially changed into a different person?
How did his government’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) shift from being the party of “the establishment,” or the nation’s all-powerful military, to being the party of change?
Khan appears to have been appointed prime minister by the nation’s influential generals, who are known to influence politics covertly to maintain the appearance of democracy while maintaining control of the country. Imran Khan is compelled to make so many U-turns because the establishment makes the decisions and sets the policies, not him.
However, there seems to be one thing that Pakistan’s generals are unable to grasp: a nation as varied as Pakistan’s cannot prosper if its civilian rulers are being subverted by the military behind closed doors.
Pakistan’s democracy won’t advance until there is freedom of the press, strong protections for human rights, and an environment where elected leaders can make decisions free from outside interference. The people of Pakistan will not stand perpetually under the control of puppet regimes. Imran Khan appears to have gotten by politically during his first year in power, but if he continues on his current path and fails to fulfill the promises he made to the Pakistani people, he may soon find himself in trouble.