Imran Khan will surely up the ante on Kashmir issue, but post-election 'fractious' Pakistan will keep him busy

If there is one thing the experts and sundry political pundits have got wrong about Imran Khan it is that he is a pushover for the army brass and hence, was ushered into power. The projected message that the army preferred Imran is unlikely to be true. In the years that I met him in Sharjah (where I worked), I remember Imran to be stubborn, with a very short fuse and not likely to bend to any breeze or break in any tempest. He also had a very ‘sahib log’ attitude and would come to the grounds separately from the rest of the team and live separately on another floor. Legend had it that when Pakistan won the World Cup the monies earned were all dedicated to his cancer hospital and not one player dared to question it. He has a palpable arrogance and he shows it, though in fairness, his close friends say that he is extremely shy and that quietness is misinterpreted as conceit.

If anything, those who know him well will be concerned that Imran will be largely incapable of ‘accommodating’ the army and will run foul of the generals more likely sooner than later.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan casts his vote at a polling station in Islamabad on Wednesday. AP

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan casts his vote at a polling station in Islamabad on Wednesday. AP

We did a show or two for television and he wasn’t particularly articulate in English but with his leonine hair and cinema star looks he had a presence. He still does. He is short and snappy and sends out waves of impatience indicating he does not suffer fools gladly. There was an incident, when Imran whacked a fan who was irritating him with a bat, it had become quite an issue.

It would suffice to say that at this moment as Imran celebrates his triumph at the hustings India should not let her guard down nor be swayed by his bitter-sweet relationship with the neighbour. Imran has often complimented India’s progress in various fields and asked his own country to follow their example. This charming approach can be hugely disarming and his frequent praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and projected admiration for his way of doing things should not obscure the fact that Kashmir is on top of Imran’s foreign policy bucket list. It will stay there.

For now, he cannot push that Kashmir envelope beyond indicating intent because there will be a very fractious situation in Pakistan post-election and it is not easy to govern a country of three commands: the army, the ISI and the civil government. Imran will be hugely preoccupied learning real politics where holding the buck is a lot different from the hectoring of campaigning or being in the Opposition. He is a bit of a babe in the political woods and at 65 could find it isn’t always an even playing field. The third umpire wears uniform and his word is final.

His immediate response harkens back to the Arvind Kejriwal assurances of new brooms sweeping clean. Almost the same words and same priorities. The poor, the weak, the corrupt are his candles in the wind. In a feudal society that attitude of egalitarianism could ruffle feathers. Thing is, will the army let him get on with the job?

One aspect that Imran has to be particularly careful about is the lure of revenge politics. He tends to rattle off at the mouth and turn into a crusader. That will be disastrous for him.

New Delhi probably has also been caught unawares because no one really thought Imran would canter in. Now that he has, the Modi regime would do well to hold on the bubbly and not be too effusive in its praise. Remember he bested Modi's friend Nawaz Sharif. We tend to get carried away and leave ourselves open to being snubbed. We shouldn't let that happen.


Updated Date: Jul 26, 2018 23:01 PM

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