August 18, 2018
10 months


What is the issue?

  • Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan sworn-in as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan.
  • It is essential at this juncture to look at the various roles and challenges before him.

What are the opportunities and challenges ahead?

  • Situation - The new Pakistani PM Imran Khan is likely to be confronted by daunting challenges on assuming office.
  • The country has a balance-of-payments crisis, the judiciary is in a hyper-activist mood, and water & climatic woes are being felt in some regions. 
  • The hard-won gains against a decade-long terrorist campaign have to be consolidated, which is threatening to resurge again.
  • Hope - Many Pakistanis have traditionally blamed an incompetent and corrupt political class for most of these chronic problems.
  • Having built his politics on an anti-corruption platform, Imran has vowed a transparent and accountable administration for Pakistan.
  • Further, for forex and investments, he intends to bank heavily on the Pakistani Diaspora which is already a major source of remittances.
  • Despite Mr. Khan allegedly rose to power with military support, he had already sent out a conciliatory call on global policy.
  • Challenges - Improving ties with the U.S., Afghanistan and India, was a feat none of his predecessors has managed successfully.
  • He spoke about improving relationships with the United States, pursuing dialogue with India and helping usher in peace in Afghanistan.
  • While this is a positive start, overlooking the military to sustain goodwill with foreign powers (particularly India) will be a tough path ahead.  
  • If Pakistani new PM Imran Khan can persuade the military to enable him to better Pakistan’s international ties, it would be a significant achievement.

What is Imran’s political stand on Afghanistan?

  • Personal - Mr. Khan takes pride in his Pashtun ethnic identity with familial roots in Waziristan, on the troubled border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Pashtuns constitute the majority in Afghanistan and the Afghani Taliban’s rank and file are largely Pashtuns.
  • In this context, Imran has a long history of towing a soft line on the Taliban and their apparent struggle to resist outsider rule in Afghanistan. 
  • This common ethnic bonding and tacit political support for Taliban has earned Imran the notorious moniker “Taliban Khan” in the liberal press.  
  • Political - Mr. Khan’s “Tehreek-e-Insaf party” came to power nationally with its base in “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province” bordering Afghanistan.
  • It is the province that suffered the most in the U.S. invasion of 2001 and the subsequent insurgency and counterinsurgency operations.
  • Mr. Khan’s rivals in the province — the religious right and the secular nationalist Pashtuns — will tear into him for failure in Afghanistan.
  • Diplomacy - Considering all this, Imran is likely to argue for a sustained peace process in Afghanistan, which includes the Afghani Taliban.
  • As both the U.S. and Afghan administration are currently open to direct talks with Taliban, it is only likely to make it easier for Imran. 
  • Nonetheless, balancing the expectations of Afghani government, the Taliban and the U.S. is likely to fall on the Pakistani PM, which would be a challenge.

What is the situation in Indo-Pak ties?

  • It is difficult for any Pakistani PM to improve ties with India as there are multiple vested interests.
  • The Pak Army have the power to derail any progress in this regard.
  • The Kashmir conflict remains an unsolvable case with highly polarised positions that both countries currently hold.
  • Despite distrust ranging high, Pakistan’s Army Gen. Bajwa had indicated that he was positively inclined to better ties with India.
  • Further, he is largely been credited for the current lull in relentless firing across the “line of Control” in Kashmir.
  • The back-channel negotiations between Pakistan and India that Gen. Bajwa is reported to have supported may signal a rare new detente.
  • If the civilian Imran government and the powerful military are indeed on the same page as far as India is concerned, it will mark a promising start. 

What is the context in U.S.-Pak ties?

  • Mr. Khan also wants to improve Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S., something the previous administrations haven’t been successful with. 
  • But the military has resented this and even Mr. Khan’s own nationalistic campaign against American policies might hinder any significant progress.
  • Economy – Pakistani foreign exchange reserves are dwindling to very low levels and it desperately needs $10 billion to save its economy.
  • Hence, Pakistan is likely to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as it is the most viable option, where the influence of U.S. is crucial.
  • Currently, U.S. officials have stated that they won’t support any direct bailout package to save Pakistan from ill thought out Chinese investments and loans.
  • In any case, Mr. Khan is unlikely to embrace austerity cuts that would be mandated by the IMF for borrowing due to various economic concerns. 
  • Security – U.S. and Pakistan remain at odds over how the Pakistani state deals with militants on multiple international and bilateral forums.
  • Pakistan was recently placed on the gray list of the “Financial Action Task Force” (FATF) for failing to shut down UN-sanctioned terrorist.

How does the future look?

  • Mr. Khan has never held executive office before and will quickly realize that quick fixes and transparent government aren’t easy to realize.
  • While he won’t be able to keep pace with public expectations, the military, which operates in the background, suffers no such constraints.
  • If Mr. Khan can make the military a partner and enabler of his foreign policy ambitions he will pull off a significant feat.
  • If that succeeds, it will help establish an unprecedented era of regional peace and stability, an outcome all will be positively inclined to.


Source: Business Standard

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