Imran’s second innings - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 26 December 2011

Imran’s second innings

Imran's Sunday rally at Bagh-e-Qaid, Karachi which was attended by some 1,00,000 people, a bigger crowd than any political rally in the last two decades.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Dec 11

Even sceptics of Imran Khan Niazi admit that the former playboy cricketer is now a serious contender for becoming Pakistan’s next prime minister in the 2013 elections, if not sooner. The massive turnout at his Christmas Day rally at Karachi highlights not just deep-rooted, Anna-style, public outrage at corruption, but also seething anger at Islamabad’s spinelessness in the face of repeated violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty by America. Sensing political change, malcontents like former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP); and Javed Hashmi of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), have already joined Imran’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice). Others, including Musharraf’s former information minister Sheikh Rashid --- always a reliable political bellwether --- are looking to follow suit.

Given the backing that Imran already enjoys from the all-important military, and from sections of the conservative clergy, he is more than confident. “I have all the opposition by their balls,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “Whatever they do now will backfire.”

The results of a YouGov-Cambridge poll released last Friday had 81% of respondents naming him as the person best suited to lead Pakistan. Two-thirds of those polled said they would vote for the PTI.

It is true that the PTI does not have the organisational structure or the grassroots cadres of mainstream parties like the PPP and the PML-N. Nor have veteran political opponents like Nawaz Sharif seriously contested Imran’s policy prescriptions. But India, of all places, knows the power of a “leher”, a political wave, and Imran is unquestionably riding one.

But these shenanigans of democracy are hardly relevant for General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the kingmaker at General Headquarters (GHQ), Rawalpindi. Tired of Pakistan’s elected leadership, Kayani needs a complaisant civilian facade to mask Rawalpindi’s control over Islamabad. For GHQ, Imran is an apparent godsend, decidedly preferable to the turncoat Nawaz Sharif who seemed a good proxy until he developed an inconvenient taste for mass politics. Imran is closer to the army’s inner aspirations: a macho Pakistani who beat India regularly (something GHQ never manages); someone who understands Pakistani strategy and geopolitics (his foreign policy advisor was the delusional, hawkish Shireen Mazari who says the Kargil conflict was “Indian aggression”); and a suave, articulate man who interacts with westerners as equals.

Imran, in Kayani’s game plan, will provide the window-dressing of democracy. He will deploy a democratic argument to halt US operations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; while maintaining relations with Pakistan’s financial patrons in Washington. Imran is to be the interface between the military, the mullahs, and the moolah.

So what plans does Imran have for leading Pakistan? He has already declared that Pakistan must spurn foreign aid, since that only goes into the pockets of corrupt leaders and props up corrupt government. “If we don't have aid we will be forced to make reforms and stand on our own feet,” he says.

Interestingly, this is exactly what the military wants. Hostages to repeated aid cut-offs, like Washington’s recent suspension of $800 million, the Pakistani establishment now argues in multilateral forums like the WTO that aid flows be replaced by enhanced preferential quotas for Pakistani exports like cotton textiles. The idea is to enhance Pakistani trade flows, taxing them to make up for the aid money lost.

Next, Imran vehemently argues for halting Pakistani army operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghanistan border and ending that “unwinnable war” through a political settlement with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Here too, Imran’s viewpoint parallels GHQ’s, which is struggling with the double whammy of mounting casualties and ideological dissent in the ranks.

Imran also condemns US drone strikes in FATA, echoing the military-ISI line that radicalization amongst tribesmen stems from America’s presence in Afghanistan. The Pakistan military calculates that an “end to operations; end to drone strikes” deal with the TTP could halt jehadi strikes across Pakistan, while simultaneously transforming the TTP from a foe into a “strategic asset” usable against India. Ending operations in FATA would also allow the Pakistan army to revert to its traditional India focus.

This convergence of views notwithstanding, an Imran in power is unlikely to toe the army’s line unquestioningly. In much of what he has lived, written and publicly stated, and in his current espousal of Jinnah’s values, Imran clearly believes that India and Pakistan are natural rivals, but not natural enemies. He has categorically pledged that no militant groups will operate from Pakistan if he comes to power, and has advocated deweaponisation across Pakistan to move away from the culture of the gun. He is, therefore, on an inevitable collision course with the army. How that plays out will depend on Imran’s political ability to bring together and marshal multiple constituencies, and his ability to bypass the mistakes of the corrupt and discredited Benazir/Nawaz/Zardari cliques in emerging as a power centre that can challenge Pakistan’s traditional India-hating establishment.

Can Imran moderate the military? Or will Kayani militarize the moderate? Rawalpindi is good at cutting down threats before they fully develop.


  1. An interesting write up with an even more interesting scenario building as it is likely to play out and raising relevant issues.

  2. Going by the the record of past Pakistani leader,being 'suave,sophisticated,western-educated,liberal,pleasing,well mannered,pleasing,ability to charm the west means ZILCH to us.
    Antagonism with India is so key a strategic tool for Pakistan,so intertwined with the Pakistani sense of nationhood,coupled with a sense victimization that no Pakistani leader can escape its tentacles.Benazir Bhutto was one such example where troubles in Punjab and Kashmir increased.
    One thing more ,India is UNDER NO OBLIGATION to help out disparate Pakistani personalities carve out a political space for themselves or help'democracy' flourish in Pakistan as some observers in India are prone to claim so .With Pakistan it may still take a few generations before 'aman -ki-asha' means anything.Personally, I think,as long as the way Pakistan defines its nationhood as of today, there can never be genuine peace between us.

  3. when Imran says that parliament pr executive will be supreme ..he is just making sure that when he comes to power west believes him and considers him as a true representative instead of a puppet...listen to him when ask question on army..he avoids criticising times he appears ugly while dodging those questions

  4. can u just pen down the short article on the status of IAC-1 and IAC-2..even 140 word wud do

  5. Ajai sir

    a very nice article about whether the once debonair lady killer Imran Khan will be able to seduce the nation, with GHQ-ISI supplied sugar/hash laced dialogues.

    Whatever it is, if he has to make it big in Pak politics 'he will have to spot anti-india rant', a precondition for GHQ-ISI. This notion of natural rivals and not natural enemies is a hog wash.

    But why are we worried, there is a saying 'what you sow is what you reap'. GHQ-ISI sowed anger and hatred in the minds of Pakistani citizens and bank rolled taliban in west and kashmiri/khalistani militants in east with drug trade money from golden crescent.

    Ajai sir just one thing, since past few writes i am seeing a definate push by you to write material with political connotations. Please keep yor articles related to defense related issues, and leave Imran and GHQ-ISI to bang their heads for good.


    Joydeep Ghosh

  6. Dear Sir

    Can you somehow make this Imran Khan topic " STICKY "

    We must witness and record his rise AND FALL BOTH

    It is my firm belief that He will
    ONLY hasten Pakistan's END

    Simply because he is just an uneducated SMOOOTH Talker
    who talks BIG

    He is Showing to the pakistani
    dreams in broad daylight

    Pakistan's socio economic problems are far far more deeply
    rooted to be solved by just
    ONE Man

    And Above ALL the Army is using him as a cover to continue
    their BUSINESS activities

    Just changing the leadership ie throwing out Nawaz AND Zardari
    will yield NOTHING

    More Later ....

  7. Imran the born-again Muslim, who enjoyed a kuffar's life till he was too old to do it and now has turned back to the religion of fatwas and jihad to find solace. He is a idealist kind of person who is too naive to be able to run a country. He is the Nehru or even worse Morarji Desai of Pakistan and will lead Pakistan down the unstoppable slide even faster than anyone before him was able to do it.

    I pray to Allah that Imran comes to power in Pakistan. From then on it's time to get your popcorn and zamzam cola ready for all the entertainment that he and his mulla and military friends are going to provide. Insha allah, he will succeed and win the Jihad against the infidels.

  8. Even if Imran is able to replace Nawaz Sharif and Zardari/Gilani, he will not be going anywhere real.

    History will keep repeating for Pakistan as long as their definition of nationhood is associated with India in any manner.

    - Manne

  9. A nice article.

    Looking in to overall situation, it can be said that Pakistan was created by Jinnah and eliminated by Imran Khan.

    This so because Imran Khan is most likely to come to the power and more than that he is unlikely to be able to contain the Jihadis at crucial times.

  10. An athlete with no political experience and an education in politics and economics that dates back to the 70s is going to lead a country? This out to be good.

    I can't believe that the masses are voting for a former athlete to lead their country. I honestly have no idea what they expect. It's as like Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan becoming the president of the USA. Unless he can someone strip the army of its' power and put them in line I see him as another puppet or lame duck prime minister...

    I remain skeptical of his political abilities until I actually see him in action. Great article as always!

  11. The war infact in FATA is already comming to an end. Only NW remains and it will remain that way as a sink for militants of sorts. Even here the PA is taking out the anti Pak ones. Look at the number of suicides in the last 3-6 months. TTP has been split, eliminated, separated from the support base and is no longer a force. PA is strengthening the local law enforments and tribal maliks and is now targeting the few hard to get places. The storm is over.

    If you read the youGov poll you will see india is not even on the horizon in Pak. Only Kashmir puts it in our cross hair.

    wrt to being equal with the west, Paks have always considered themselves tobe equals and acted as such from Jinnah, Ayub to Now.

    Suffering inferiority has never been our problem, Pride is.

  12. Ajai sir

    though unrelated please see the Iranian map that clearly does not recognize Kashmir as part of India. if this is there stance on Kashmir then why we need to put in so much of our efforts to help Iran against being cornered.

    your views please


    Joydeep Ghosh

  13. Try this out, imagine an old european woman running a foreign county of over a billion in Asia!

    or imagine an actor becoming a president. God forbid! its hard to make this stuff up :-)

    Imran Khans is son of the soil. He has spent the past 15yrs in politics.

    I have come to understand hipocrisy is an indian strength.

  14. A minor correction. The site of the rally was in Karachi, at the Bagh-e-Jinnah, which is adjacent to the Jinnah mausoleum (visible in the picture in the background). The Minar-e-Pakistan is a tower in Lahore, not Karachi.

  15. Nazam Sethi on Imran:

  16. Imran Khan By Hassan Nisar

  17. Nazam Seth on the theme of this article:

  18. @ Anonymous 02:44

    Thank you! I have made the correction...

  19. How Gazi and the fore... screwed india... and continue to screw us... Because of the illusion... that an enemy can be a friend... why we don't have the balls... what it takes to look... to look at the enemy in his eyes... or its pure Delusional... or wishful thinking on your part...

  20. @Ajai sir

    just got news that the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) of the Navy was floated out at the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL)

    just curiuos, why its still called a Air Defence Platform

    Any clue on that


    Joydeep Ghosh

  21. @Sherkhan....your playboy could not manage things beyond his puberty, no wonder his wife abandoned him and ran away to her parents.

    The Italian lady you mention is daughter-in-law of India and she is doing exactly what a daughter-in-law should do.

    Now you know why you guys can't keep your wife happy...because all of you are busy finding hypocrisy of India.

    Khan this is good time today make a fresh start. May be 2012 is better for you if you just mind your affairs!!!


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