By Mohammad Mazhari

Youth and middle class still support Imran Khan: researcher

April 25, 2022 - 12:12

TEHRAN - A research associate at the India Study Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) says that the recent gathering by PTI in Karachi and Lahore reflected the youth and middle class still support Imran Khan.

“The recent massive power show of PTI in Karachi and Lahore is a lucid manifestation that the youth and middle class still support him,” Dost Muhammad Barrech tells the Tehran Times.

“Ostensibly, he has geared up the preparation of the next election and appears to be exploiting the victim card of the U.S. involvement behind ousting his government,” the Pakistani researcher adds.

“The Anti-Americanism narrative sells in the country in no time. Galvanization of youth, diaspora and the middle class as far as the next election is concerned once again remains to be the last resort of Khan to recapture power.”

Barrech is of the opinion that Khan needs to be appreciated for absorbing the youth into politics over the last decade. “PTI steals a march over the other political parties in the mobilization of youth, diaspora and accurate utilization of the digital media.”

 The following is the text of the interview:

Q: What are the main reasons that Imran Khan failed to get the confidence of the Pakistani parliament? Critics say his economic policies were unsuccessful. Please explain.

A: Imran Khan came to the government with some popular but unrealistic slogans. He promised to end corruption within ninety days; providing ten million jobs and constructing five million houses for homeless people. Given the prevailing conditions of Pakistan in 2018, including an ailing economy, poor governance and widespread unemployment and poverty in the country, the popular slogans of Imran Khan became like melodious music to the ears of people. During his almost 4 years of rule the country’s economy slipped from bad to worse, already poor governance lost steam, unemployment steeply rose, and inflation skyrocketed. Khan’s government not only politically victimized all opposition parties under the guise of the so-called anti-corruption drive but also never listened to their voices in the parliament. He antagonized the country's most powerful military establishment over the appointment of DG ISI in the last quarter of 2021. Multiplying the aforementioned factors paved the way for escalating civil-military relations, which culminated in the removal of Khan through the vote of no-confidence. 

Q: Imran Khan accused Washington of being involved in a conspiracy against his government, while the White Housed rejects such a claim. Do you think foreign meddling in Pakistan is possible?

“The biggest conundrum of Pakistan is an economic meltdown, rising inflation, unemployment and growing religious radicalization.”A: Accusing the U.S. of toppling his government to me is unjustifiable. In 75 years of the history of Pakistan, no prime minister so far completed full five-year tenure. On 18 occasions, prime ministers of the country have been removed under different circumstances. The question remains: was Washington too involved in ousting the other 17 prime ministers of Pakistan. The answer to me is simply no. In his recent interview, the former information minister Fawad Chaudhry confessed that the PTI government would continue to have been in power if relations with the establishment had not been strained. Khan’s incendiary claim was also debunked by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) affirmed that there was no foreign conspiracy behind Khan’s ouster. To bear in mind, Washington remains the largest export market of Islamabad. I think, externalizing internal problems will exacerbate Pakistan’s already strained relations with the U.S... However, the U.S. Cold War history is a tangible testimony that it was involved in meddling in the internal affairs of the states.

Unlike the Cold War era, the U.S. currently, somewhat eschews meddling in the internal affairs of other states.
          
Q: How do you see the future of Pakistan after removing Imran Khan? Is Pakistan going towards instability?

A: The removal of Imran Khan, to me, is not the real problem, the biggest conundrum of the country rather is an economic meltdown, rising inflation, unemployment and growing religious radicalization. The construction of an anti-West narrative by the previous government is likely to create political polarization and will further radicalize the apolitical youth against the West which invariably will augment diplomatic crisis. To be fair, the above-mentioned socio-political and economic crisis multiplied in the Khan’s regime. He along with his inexperienced team remained utterly failed in addressing the economic and political crisis. Presently, holding a fresh election is desperately needed. The current government is unstable and is at loggerhead with the opposition parties. As stated earlier in the last 74 years none of the prime misters has completed the five years tenure showcasing the roots of democracy are still weak and shakable. Toppling elected government replacing it with the so-called exchange of power is illusory salvation. Setting such a precedent, by and large, tarnishes the soft image and will head the country towards political instability.  

Q: What are Imran Khan’s options to confront his political rivals and foes? 

A: Given the complex and mercurial nature of Pakistani politics, it is nearly impossible to predict the future trajectory of politics in the country with precision. Interestingly, on the heels of the collapse of his government, former PM Imran Khan has started a series of power shows to compel the Shehbaz-led coalition government to conduct elections as soon as possible. But many independent observers are of the view that Khan no more enjoys broad-based mass support as the miserable failure of its government to deliver services eroded his popularity in the country.  Khan no more enjoys a good relationship with the military establishment. Given the overwhelming political role of non-democratic forces in the country, it is very difficult for a political party to come to the corridor of powers without the support of the military establishment.

Q: Who are the main supporters of Imran Khan inside Pakistan? Can Imran Khan count on his social base while the army is reluctant to support him? 

A: I reckon, to some extent, Khan needs to be appreciated for galvanizing the youth in politics over the last decade. PTI steals a march over the other political parties in the mobilization of youth, diaspora and accurate utilization of the digital media. Khan is among the most-followed politicians on Twitter across the world, amasses 14 million followers on Twitter, and has 10 million followers on Facebook and 5 million on Instagram. The populist politics of Khan has a great deal of impact on apolitical youth. The recent massive power show of PTI in Karachi and Lahore is a lucid manifestation that the youth and middle class still support him. Ostensibly, he has geared up the preparation for the next election and appears to be exploiting the victim card of the U.S. involvement in ousting his government. The anti-West narrative sells in the country in no time. Galvanization of youth, diaspora and the middle class as far as the next election is concerned once again remains to be the last resort of Khan to recapture power. In my perspective, the support of the army to any political party depends on the evolving political environment in the country.  



 

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