Foreign Policy Blogs

“New Pakistan” – what’s the truth?

Imran Khan, elected on his good looks and apparent disagreement with the status quo, was going to bring with him sweeping change, transforming the country into what he called “Naya Pakistan,” or “New Pakistan”. His two-decade-long journey to the premier house in Pakistan has not gone unnoticed. After losing the last national elections in 2013, he becried the rigged elections until a week before the current elections. His party sued everyone imaginable, held long drawn-out demonstrations that drained the country, both economically and emotionally..

This election cycle was different. While foreign media covered his ties with the Pakistan Army, media in Pakistan was banned from covering anything that hinted towards these ties, or spoke against Khan’s policies (and used the Fake News Trumpism). While he famously has appealed to the youth of Pakistan based on his previous life as a playboy turned cricket superstar, he has also appeased the militant-right and joined forces with them to establish his government. An example of his washy manifesto are the blasphemy laws, a topic of controvery in Pakistan any given day of the week, but something that is played on most during election cycles. Khan has famously backed the laws, which have been used as a tool to further opress minorities, especially Christians and Ahmedis.

Ahmedis are a minority in Pakistan, whom the government had declared “non-Muslim” in 1974. Since, their community has silently served in the Pakistani army without the hope of promotion or overt praise, they have built our economy without the appreciation that should come with it and have won Pakistan its only Nobel Prize in physics, without as much as a nod. Yet, they continued to live in the land that is their home, and continue to serve selflessly. One such individual is Dr. Atif R. Mian, an economist and professor at Princeton University. He was recently asked to serve on an economic advisory council for Khan, which he gracefully accepted. The right wing extremist factions within Pakistan immediately criticized Khan for appointing a “non-Muslim” and wanted him removed. To their credit, Khan and his party stuck with their decision – for a whole two days.

Dr. Mian has since been “asked” to remove himself from the council, which he has done. Khan and his government have given no further explanation for their action. His avid supporters believe this would not be a battle worth fighting, as religious extremists had threatened violence. In his inaugural address, Khan made a strong statement about Pakistan being the country of the poor and the weak and that he would stand with them. He mentioned the women, children and minorities that needed specific protection and opportunities, and that his government would provide those. Yet, two days into a decision that would prove beneficial for the country, the govenrment has given into the threats of out-lawed factions, sending a clear signal as to who is in charge.

While his govenrment may be on a path to planting ten billion trees, it has already established a rule by terrorists. What’s so naya about this Pakistan?