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The Other Frontline: South Asia in the emerging great power competition

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The collapse of the Soviet Union sealed the fate of the realist-bipolar world order and the United States of America (USA) – the leader of the so-called free world – ascended triumphantly. Afterwards, the sole superpower asserted itself as a liberal hegemon and instituted the rules-based liberal world order, which synchronized the globe for more than two decades. Nonetheless, as opposed to the liberal imaginings – which John Mearsheimer brands as “delusions” – the rules-based order proved to be even evanescent. While the liberal hegemon was engaged in costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, China – the onetime sleeping dragon – steadily transformed its latent potential into tangible economic power and by the end of the first decade of 21st century, elevated itself to supplant Japan as world’s second-largest economy only preceded by the USA.

As China’s economy– an element considered central to the overall national power – underwent astonishing growth, it started translating its economic might into military power and by using the trump card of geo-economics, sought to expand its geopolitical influence; thus, aiming to establish its own order by replacing the US-led order. The Chinese aspirations were unveiled after the Xi Jinping’s rise to the power and post 2013,the dragon in effect repudiated the famous dictum of Deng Xiaoping, “hide your strength and bide your time” and embarked upon the mission to project the power beyond its borders and shores. Unsurprisingly, the upsurge of China and its grand ambitions resulted into a security dilemma for the USA and as a classic manifestation of Thucydides Trap, a geostrategic competition is quickly unfolding between the status-quo power USA and the revisionist power China.

Nevertheless, the geostrategic competition between China and the USA is improbable to culminate into a direct military confrontation, albeit, an intense security competition has already started, a reality manifested by a reinvigorated global arms race in nuclear and conventional realm. This competition, however, is not limited to military realm only and its manifestation can be discerned in; economy – where a bitter trade war has just waned after the conclusion of trade deal; diplomacy – where both the giants are vying for influence in various parts of the world; and most importantly, technology – where both the countries are competing for dominance in Artificial Intelligence and 5G technology.

For decades, South Asia remained an important geographical arena for the great power politics and traversing into the 21st century, the region’s geostrategic significance has just multiplied. It is home to roughly a quarter of world’s population; two generally hostile nuclear powers evoke intermittent great power interventions; the USA still maintains its two-decades-old presence in Afghanistan, which may end soon; resource-rich the Middle East and Central Asia are located next-door; revisionist China is the immediate neighbour and has direct stakes in the region; and above all, South Asian landmass forms the littoral of the warm-waters of Indian Ocean, through which pass some of the world’s most crucial Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs).

Competing Strategies of the USA and China in South Asia

At the dawn of the 21st century, the USA found itself directly involved in the South Asia region. At one hand, the superpower was waging a sanguinary war against terrorism in Afghanistan that necessitated a close partnership with Pakistan, while at the other hand; it entered into a strategic partnership with India after the two countries signed a groundbreaking civil nuclear deal in 2005. In 2011, President Obama announced the “Pivot to Asia” policy, which envisioned shifting the USA’s attentiveness to the Asia-Pacific – the region prophesied to host the most consequential geostrategic competition in the 21st century – after the relative oblivion of more than two decades.

However, it was in all probability too late. China – which emerged as the prime beneficiary of the rules-based international order and relished a “free ride” – had already acquired the wherewithal to challenge the liberal hegemon and redesign, if not remould the international order.

In 2013, newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a multitrillion-dollar economic plan that envisions connecting China with rest of Asia, Europe and Africa by building a network of highways, railway, and ports. Pakistan –China’s all-weather friend and geopolitical pivot on the Eurasian chessboard – became a destination to BRI’s flagship project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which contributed towards the further strengthening of the decades-old relationship between the two countries. Besides, China also reached out to the smaller countries of South Asia such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives, while regional giant India – because of its geostrategic rivalry with China – continued opposing the scheme.

In pursuance of BRI, China acquired a series of ports along the Indian Ocean littoral besides securing direct land access to the Arabian Sea via Pakistan. The projects, operational, are likely to enable China to mitigate its Malacca Dilemma and assuage its strategic vulnerabilities vis-à-vis the Indian Ocean.

Though China has been accentuating the economic outlook of BRI and negates any geopolitical angle associated with the scheme, it is irrefutable that economic influence always wields geopolitical influence and unquestionably, BRI has implications far beyond economics. Arguably, the BRI appears to be a grand geopolitical strategy camouflaged as a benign geo-economics venture, which aims to displace the USA as the dominant power in China’s immediate neighbourhood and defy its global dominance elsewhere necessary; thus, establishing a bounded Chinese order at the cost of the USA’s liberal order.

In response to China’s BRI, the USA intensified its “rebalancing towards Asia” efforts. In 2016, Uncle Sam sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)– which was to cover the 40% of world trade – and sought to strengthen regional alliances, but the election of President Trump led to a reversal in the policy. In 2017, the USA withdrew from TPP, sending shockwaves among its allies in the Asia-Pacific region and casting dicey shadows over the liberal hegemon’s global commitments.

However, Asia-Pacific was not a region to be overlooked such conveniently. In 2018, Trump administration presented the Indo-Pacific Strategy, which came as another formal acknowledgement of the China’s revisionist status – a threat to rules-based international order necessitating containment at the earliest.

From a South Asian perspective, the term “Indo-Pacific” emphasized India’s augmented significance for the USA in the Asia-Pacific, and further reinforced the beliefs that the USA is strategizing to use India as an offshore balancer to counterbalance China. Furthermore, some efforts were made to revive the Quad –a group of maritime democracies belonging to the Indo-Pacific rim– with a perceived common objective to contain China. However,as opposed to BRI – which has already made considerable progress – the USA’s initiatives without any real strategy, policy frameworks and implementation mechanisms, flaunt as aspirational set of goals.

Certainly, China’s BRI has challenged the USA’s long dominance of Eurasia and South Asia is no different. The status-quo power has yet to come up with something as impressive and tangible as BRI, which– despite facing hurdles and setbacks – is flexible enough to adapt to the regional requirements and accommodate the aspirations of host countries; thus, sprouting as more acceptable and omnipresent.

Implications for South Asia

A shift in the alliances and intensification in regional competition

South Asian regional order is undergoing a transformational shift in the alliances as regional powers realign with great powers according to the emerging trends in the global distribution of power. Pakistan – the transactional ally of USA – has become China’s most trusted ally, while India – the Soviet bloc country during the Cold-War – has entered into a strategic partnership with the USA. Afghanistan – the third-largest country in the region – is the arena for the power struggle between the regional and extra-regional countries and as the imminent US withdrawal from the country approaches, the power struggle is only expected to intensify. At the other hand, other smaller countries of South Asia have a little consequential relationship with the USA but are trying to maintain a delicate balance between the USA’s offshore balancer, India and the revisionist power China which by the spectacle of unmatchable economic enticements– enjoys a competitive edge.

The alliance shift and the emerging regional power structure imply that South Asia will be an important battlefield for the global geostrategic competition between the USA and China. In fact, in Pakistan, this battle for economic, diplomatic and military influence is already underway. The USA is hypercritical of CPEC and considers the Chinese financial ventures a debt trap for Pakistan, while China has branded CPEC as the flagship of BRI and successful implementation of CPEC projects in Pakistan will be a major confidence booster for the grand plan of BRI. Moreover, China – despite strategic anxieties and border disputes – has expanded its trade relationship with India and is a major economic partner of other smaller South Asian countries. Antithetically, Trump’s isolationist USA – with nothing tangible to offer in economic realm – is only circumscribed to expanding its defence cooperation with India.

Appeasement of Fascist Modi regime by the USA and increased chances of military confrontation in South Asia:

India under the fascist Modi regime is undergoing a massive transformation. Apart from pursuing divisive policies at home, Modi has been very keen to portray itself as a strongman against Pakistan and the tensions between the two arch-rivals have recently soared after India unilaterally abrogated disputed Kashmir’s special status and high ranking Indian officials hurled unveiled threats to militarily take over the part of Kashmir under Pakistani control. Given Modi’s hyper-nationalistic rhetoric, his fixation to engage in dangerous brinkmanship to earn domestic political mileage and threats of an invasion of Pakistan Administered Kashmir, the risk of a major military confrontation in the disputed Himalayan region has increased manifold.

The worrying trends in India, however, fail to constrain the USA to continuously appease the fascist Modi regime, and owing to economic and geopolitical expediencies, the USA has turned a blind eye towards India’s bellicosity. In the absence of any international rebuke and USA and other Western powers providing subtle support, India has emerged as more assertive and domineering than ever and immediately poses a grave threat to the stability of whole South Asia region.

After the launch of CPEC, Pakistan Administered areas of disputed Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan have assumed strategic significance for both Pakistan and China. The region connects the two all-weather allies and is home to various infrastructure projects planned under CPEC. This creates direct Chinese stakes in the disputed region and the recent assurance by Chinese President to safeguard Pakistan’s “core interests” – which admittedly include Kashmir – the dragon has made no secret of its intentions. Therefore, it is safe to argue that in case India embarks upon a military adventure in Pakistan Administered Kashmir, the response may not be from Pakistan only and the situation may drift away to uncontainable limits.

Intensified Arms Race in the region

India is already the world’s second-largest importer of arms and as its geostrategic competition with China intensifies and tensions with Pakistan soar, the country is likely to further intensify its arms procurement and military modernization. Convincingly, it will create a security dilemma for Pakistan and country will be left with no other option except to increase its own arms procurement to deny India any significant advantage and ensure arms race stability in the region, which forms an important component of Strategic Stability. Consequently, the country’s already crippling economy is likely to come under further pressure and less allocation to the Human Development Index related domains means further increase in the impoverishment in the world’s sixth most populous country.

An upsurge in proxy wars and increased instability in the region

Theory of Nuclear Deterrence proposes that two nuclear-armed states avoid engaging in a direct military confrontation. Consequently, Nuclear Weapon states became proficient at obtaining their political objectives using proxies. Although, because of the regular nuclear brinkmanship of the leaders of India and Pakistan, South Asia provides a paradoxical case study for Nuclear Deterrence, yet the countries here have also mastered the art of proxy wars and have been employing irregular warfare to inflict damage upon their adversaries.

In the wake of intensifying regional tensions and global powers getting more involved in South Asian affairs, the fomentation of subversive activities by regional states against each other with the patronage of global powers is expected to further intensify and Pakistan can be the most immediate victim. Given the common interest of the USA and India to disgruntle Chinese designs linked with CPEC, connivance between the two strategic partners to foment destabilization inside Pakistan is the most opportune strategy to counter growing Chinese influence.

The trend of proxy wars is also expected to escalate in war-torn Afghanistan and in addition to USA and China, India and Pakistan – which have long been fighting an undeclared indirect war for influence in the country – are likely to further intensify their exertions once a power vacuum is created after the proposed US withdrawal.

Ironically, if Pakistan and China decided to respond India in the same coin and launched schemes to exploit the internal fault lines within Indian society– which are deepening owing to divisive politics played by Modi regime –it can lead towards an ultimately nightmarish scenario and the whole region may be propelled into the whirlpool of instability.

Ever decreased Chances of Regional connectivity

South Asian countries have tremendous economic potential and if the regional giants Pakistan and India can sort out their differences and become more economically integrated, it can not only reduce the risk of wars but can also usher into anew era of economic progress and advancement. However, given the imminent scenario in which geopolitics is all set to dominate the region, chances of any regional economic interconnectivity are likely to diminish further, even appalling scenario for the region’s impoverished masses.

Conclusion:

South Asia region is all set to become one of the most important battlefields for the emerging geostrategic competition between the USA and China. The region is already home to ever-hostile nuclear-armed neighbours and the emergence of new great power politics in the region is all set to lead towards further instability. To add to the precariousness is the rising fascism in India and due to India’s strategic efficacy, USA’s continuous policy of appeasing the fascist Modi regime. Absolute impunity for its tyrannical moves and hysteria has rendered India ever more assertive and aggressive, and there are chances that country may instigate a war over the disputed region of Kashmir, which can escalate to cataclysmic levels. Soaring regional tensions are probable to enhance the Modi regime’s romance with arms buildup and an unrestrained arms race in the conventional and nuclear domain is very much on the cards. Furthermore, soaring geopolitical tensions leave no space for the toning-down of the trend of proxy wars and once adversarial countries are bent on exploiting each other’s fault lines, it will just augment to the instability and volatility in the region. Grownup instability and ratcheting-up of hostilities are likely to condense the chances of any economic cooperation between India and Pakistan, and South Asian economic integration would remain a dream unfulfilled.

Hamdan Khan is currently working as Research Officer at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad. He is an alumnus of the National Defence University Islamabad and has previously worked for the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) and the Pakistan Council on China (PCC). Hamdan studies Global Affairs with a focus on Great-Power Politics, Programs and Policies of Nuclear Weapons States, and Emerging Military Technologies.

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South Asia

Afghanistan between an Inclusive Government and Instability

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Source: Twitter

The political processes around Afghanistan persist in active development. Although the attention of the world media has fairly reduced, diplomatic activity regarding the Afghan issue does not decrease. Obviously, despite considerable pressure from the world powers, the leadership of the radical Taliban movement ruling Afghanistan still refused to create an inclusive government and continues its policy of tightening the regime. 

On the eve,  the former US special representative of Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, drew attention to the probable worth of the situation in the country. The diplomat did not rule out the possibility of a civil war in this country. In a recent interview, he called on the Taliban to respect the view of a significant part of society to prevent a new war. Apparently, the American diplomat is rather overstating the situation since the opposition to the Taliban, at least for now, does not have sufficient resource base and support for a full-scale confrontation with the radicals. However, Khalilzad’s statement indicates an increasing irritation towards the Taliban from the great powers.

An Indian diplomat and counsellor of the Permanent Representative of India to the UN, Madhu Sudan, also spoke on this matter earlier. He stated that to ensure Afghanistan’s economic stability and development, it is vital to create an inclusive government. The Indian representative called peace and security in Afghanistan the most important aspect of the global community and called on all countries to join efforts to achieve it. According to the diplomat, despite the changes in the political system of Afghanistan, India’s attitude towards its people has not changed. That is why New Delhi previously sent 50,000 tons of wheat, coronavirus vaccines, other medicines and convenience goods to Afghanistan as humanitarian aid. At the same time, the Indian side stresses the need to create an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

The significance of the presence of representatives of all ethnic and political groups in the government of Afghanistan is also stated in the Russian government. Thus, speaking at the CSTO summit in Armenia, the Russian president called for creating an inclusive government in Afghanistan. “The priority at this stage is to ensure the formation of a truly inclusive Afghan government, which will include representatives of all ethnic groups at the necessary level,” Vladimir Putin said. It should be noted that the CSTO summit was a failure and actually launched the processes for the final disintegration of this inefficient organization. In turn, Russia’s position in the post-Soviet space has weakened so much that we can discuss the impending loss of regional power status. Moscow is no longer a hegemon in the South Caucasus, Central Asia and the former USSR as a whole.

However, the Taliban’s policy is increasingly annoying in world capitals, especially in the Global West, India and Iran. Thus, these cases were previously discussed in a conversation between the Presidents of Tajikistan and France. Emomali Rahmon and Emmanuel Macron highlighted the need to develop joint approaches to preserve Afghanistan’s peace and stability. Both leaders also stressed the necessity for an inclusive government.

Meanwhile, all political messages addressed to Afghanistan were denied by the Taliban leadership. Thus, it was stated that “the arguments about the creation of an inclusive government by foreign states are interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.” “The creation of the government and state institutions is a matter of domestic policy,” said deputy Taliban spokesman Billal Karimi. He called on the international community to abstain from interfering in his country’s internal affairs.

A particular setback is also kept in the struggle against the drug trade. Mohammad Masoud Zahidian, Deputy head of the Iranian Counter-Narcotics Headquarters, says drug trafficking from Afghanistan has risen. According to him, the cause for the growth in drug trafficking was the activation of the southern route (Pakistani) from Afghanistan. According to the official, in 2022, more than 220,000 hectares of agricultural land in Afghanistan were allocated for poppy, with 76% of these crops in the provinces bordering Iran. It should be mentioned that the southern route is one of the main logistics routes under the control of the Taliban and Pakistani security forces. This route passes through the southern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan and then the territory of Pakistan. It is known that Islamabad provides comprehensive assistance, sponsors and counsels the Taliban movement.

The tightening of the domestic policy of the Taliban is indicated by some strange and illogical laws that the Taliban have recently introduced. Thus, the Ministry of Prohibition of Evil and Coercion to the good of the Taliban banned listening to music, explaining that music damages the morality of young people and leads them astray. In a video published by the Ministry, a person introduced as a psychotherapist says that some words that cause inebriation are used in music. Taliban officials also say that listening to music causes heart disorders.

Thus, the situation in Afghanistan is staining. The support for the Taliban, provided by Pakistan, China and partly Russia, has failed. The policy of the leading Western countries is also not entirely clear, which actually left Afghanistan in a power vacuum, which led to an increase in the influence of the Taliban, Pakistan and China. Seemingly, the insight of this is slowly coming to the world capitals.

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South Asia

The Taliban Finally Granted Permission to the Former President Karzai to leave Afghanistan

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Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai. (Express photo by Nirupama Subramanian)

Based on the information, the former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, was permitted to leave the country. At a time, when online meetings between Sohail Shaheen and American representatives are going on in connection with the start of intra-Afghan talks in Doha, The former president of the country, Hamid Karzai, was allowed to exit the country for the first time after August 15, 2021, when the Taliban took over. Nevertheless, it is not yet known when he will start his overseas trip, but his only purpose is to get preparation for the start of Intra-Afghan talks in Doha and to meet with American officials and foreign Afghan politicians. Since the end of October and the beginning of November, there are reports narrating that telephone calls are being made between President Hamid Karzai, and the US special representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West.

Besides, the persons are preparing for future negotiations, the re-established relationship between the former president Karzai and the CIA took place, when a CIA undercover intelligence officer met Karzai sometimes back, when he represented himself as an International media reporter. Sources suspect that the undercover agent interviewed the president under the auspices of a well-known German based Der Spiegel Magazine.

According to the information, former President Hamid Karzai will fly to Germany, while meeting with the CIA officials at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Meantime, the former President Hamid Karzai will meet with some high-ranking officials of Germany and then have separate meetings with Western politicians and intelligence officers. Furthermore, after that, President Hamid Karzai will meet with the American ambassador to lay out the strategy for the potential negotiations.

 Currently, there is a lot of confusion in the Mandigak palace in Kandahar province, where Taliban Spiritual leader and the decision making hub located and it is said that there have been serious discrepancies  regarding allowing him to go abroad. However, Sheikh Haibatullah’s position is still neutral about his exit, while negotiating with his advisors to make a final decision in the upcoming days.

Nonetheless, there are no other specific differences regarding the permission. It is only the low-ranking Taliban fighters, who demand the precise judgement of the Taliban’s leader in this concern; In addition, some Taliban leaders are also unhappy about the whole process, especially the former members of the Quita Council of Taliban.

Now the ball is in the Taliban’s ground, whether they are ready to comply with the demands of the international community, by transferring the power to a transitional government or not, and to get along with the United States and get onboard the international community support. Definitely, it causes further splintering among Taliban groups and ISKP will use it as an opportunity to recruit Taliban fighters, while paving the way for regrouping in Khorasan Province the IS so-called territory.

The ISKP long before blamed Taliban for being ‘’ Rafeda’’, while simultaneously cooperating with the US, Russia, China and Iran for their political ambitions.  To conclude, the Afghan people will not accomplish a lasting peace and sustainable economic developments, since the country will turn into a new battle filed among countries, which have stake in Afghanistan.

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The Charisma and Chaos of Imran Khan

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PTI Chairman Imran Khan gestures at the march participants as his convoy arrives in Gujranwala on November 1, 2022. — Instagram

The chances of Imran Khan winning the elections of 2018 were quite murky. Despite his unparalleled fan base and populist rhetoric appeals to the young, and labor class of Pakistan, the legitimacy of his government is marred with allegations of fraud, rigging, and exploitation.

Some argue that his candidacy was a marketing tactic used by the ‘Establishment’ in Pakistan to form a government that is rather weak and dependent so that the ‘Establishment’ can continue its control over domestic security issues including the Nuclear escalation and relations with India.

But by and large, Khan won the elections.

Maybe it was the stardom attached to the name ‘Imran Khan’ and Pakistanis not wanting to confide in the same faces ruling them for centuries.

Maybe it was the mismanagement and violence that marred election day with unfathomable delays in result declaration in metropolis cities, coupled with post-poll manipulation.

Maybe it was the judicial-military nexus, that placed all the votes in the right places by not allowing voters to use their will during elections.

Maybe it was the 7 years-old narcotics case hearing moving forward against the stalwart of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Hanif Abbasi, giving him a life sentence in a rare late-night session of court, four days ahead of the elections that effectively knocked PML-N out of the race.

But the deal was done and can’t be undone and Imran Khan became the Prime Minister of Pakistan, for better or worse.

Khan the Celebrity

Pakistani nationals were victims of the financial crisis, unemployed people, those who lost their homes, and who were in debt; these people felt like the two parties ruling Pakistan for centuries had destroyed their country’s economy.

Imran Khan, with his humongous stardom as an athlete and philanthropist, seemed like the only ‘Messiah’ that could save them from all the atrocities they were facing.

Though, a significant number of votes were cast in favor of PML-N but not in the places that would have locked the win. So Imran Khan, persuaded the angry Pakistanis, the youth, and the labor class who were fed up with being handed over in trade deals with other nations.

Khan, a socialite that he was, knew how to connect with these agitated masses. Their grievances were clear as a day and so he gave them pretty promises wrapped up in his vibrant rallies filled with catchy songs. His huge social media presence along with the ‘Naya Pakistan’ slogan further amplified his staunch.

But there lies a challenge as to why Khan became the top highlight of this era. To many who were tired of politicians filling their own pockets, and amid the corruption charges on Nawaz Sharif, Khan’s celebrity status, his colorful personality, his promise of a corruption-free Pakistan, and his unconventional ‘Don’t Panic’ attitude – all of this made Khan seem like the only option who would deliver a better life and nation and, if not that, then at least would be the eradicator of what Pakistan had become.

Khan the Totalitarian

The other side of the coin sees Imran Khan as a narcissist, self-centered, and power-hungry mogul. After achieving his eternal craving of becoming the Prime Minister, he hardly showed any respect for the institutions of the country. More often than not he refused to attend the sessions of Parliament, with his excuse being the presence of members of the opposition party whom he referred to as ‘Crooks’ and ‘Chors’ (thieves).

This resulted in laws, instead of passing through an ordinary law-making process, being passed through presidential ordinances, with very limited power. We can clearly say that these laws were passed without debate, consensus, and thorough examination, negating the very foundation of constitutional requirements.

Additionally, Khan likes to fabricate stories in his speeches, a lot. In this vein, he brings down any democratic provision that proves him wrong, including targeting political parties on concocted charges of corruption; sustained attacks on the media; undermining law authorities, even the Supreme Court is not exempted from his allegations.

Through the abrogation of rule of law, irresponsible remarks about institutions, and disdain toward democracy, Khan himself created a fragile parliamentary system, which then collapsed on him. Not only this, but he has fractured the already dwindling democracy of Pakistan into a whole new level.

Khan the Leader

Khan came onto the political scene when Pakistan was facing a volatile situation both at home and abroad, coupled with the tensions going on with the Americas, and the rampant inflation, he was still able to take some impressive measures. His work related to health, relief programs, house loans, the environment, entrepreneurship, and the COVID response is admirable.

In addition, his billion tree tsunami and the building of several small dams initiated an environment-friendly drive in the climate change-affected country. But was he able to deliver on the ‘Promises’ made to the nation? Absolutely Not.

Perhaps he should have paid more attention to the cabinet as the abrupt changes in the system dwindled the confidence of investors in Pakistan’s economic machinery. His careless handling of some important economic programs including the CPEC decelerated the capital influx that caused the GDP to drop considerably.

To top it all off, Pakistan, in 2021 dropped from 124th place to 140th place according to Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), leaving an ugly mark on Khan’s corruption eradication promises on which he has led the foundation of his political career. Maybe he should have abided by the agenda of progression in order to gear up his performance instead of getting involved in blame and shame politics.

Khan the funambulist

The important reason why Khan has a cult following in Pakistan is his unfiltered and raw opinions about topics like the Americas, and Afghanistan which he keeps casting in his speeches. And, the audience, mostly the social media-induced young generation eats it all up like a sweet concoction, without paying heed to the implications it will bring to the foreign policy of Pakistan.

Khan’s decision to appoint Usman Buzdar, an underqualified and inexperienced newcomer to a vital position in the key city of Punjab pretty much sums up his political foresight. Perhaps, the most interesting yet debatable contrivance of his regime is his relentless attitude toward the United States, no previous Prime Minister of Pakistan was able to say ‘Absolutely No’ to the US as it had many allies in the domestic political platform of Pakistan. This stance of Khan was admired a lot in the country, with the phrase being trending in Pakistan. But the remarks came with ramifications for Pakistan on the international forum. This whole scenario further makes people question his political sanity.

Imran Khan possesses all the characteristics of a populist leader and in Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Cas Mudde says: “Populists are dividers, not uniters” they split society into “two homogenous and antagonistic groups: the pure people on the one end and the corrupt elite on the other.” True to this narration, Khan has divided the nation into two groups of ‘Evil and Good’ people, and the consequences are detrimental to the stability of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, Imran Khan, despite his misgivings, his warts, his narcissism, and his unhinged political views, is still able to reach a class of people that have seen Pakistan erode for centuries and consider him the last hope for the country. But he certainly is not the best choice for democracy as his political understanding is ruined by his self-righteous approach. In this manner, he is no better than former US President Trump who incited his supporters to pass on the U.S. Capitol to forestall the peaceful transition of power after his electoral defeat. It is precise to say that Pakistan has fallen into a deep cauldron and only a Magic Wand can heal it at this point. Though Khan has not singularly created this cauldron, he most definitely is exploiting and feeding on it.

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