A Long Journey: When the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the 2018 General Elections, it was the culmination of a 22 year journey for Imran Khan. He had founded the PTI in 1996 hoping to oust the ‘political mafias’ ruling Pakistan. He garnered national support over the next two decades and in 2013 had become the second largest in the country by popular vote, before eventually winning in 2018.
Corruption: A major crackdown on corruption has seen a former prime minister and a former president both imprisoned on charges of corruption. Having the money returned to the nation is proving to be more difficult although some progress has been made with local businessmen who benefitted enormously through contacts within previous administrations. He has also pursued cutbacks in any extravagant government expenditure, himself setting a personal example.
Economy: He managed to avert a default on the balance of payments by securing loans from allies and then reluctantly from the IMF (he had pledged not to go to the latter). This was the country’s 13th IMF bailout since the 1980s. With economic growth slower than expected, the currency dropping by 15% and inflation rising to 10%, the economy is in crisis. One of his major challenges is to increase the tax base in a country where tax evasion is the norm.
International Relations: Early on, he stated his intentions to develop much better relations with India. But with military incidents never far away and with India virtually annexing Kashmir, it is difficult to see how peaceful relations will develop. He was accredited internationally for returning a captured Indian air force pilot who had been shot down during an incursion into Pakistan. He has pushed the development of the Kartarpur Corridor, which will allow Indian Sikh pilgrims the opportunity to make a pilgrimage, visa-free, to their holiest site. The site is 5km from the Indian border and represents a major opportunity for cooperation. He has managed to re-establish good relations with the US and Gulf states, but has been criticised for not speaking out against the treatment of the Uyghurs by the Chinese government, one of Pakistan’s closest allies.
Past Projects: Imran Khan started fund raising for a cancer hospital soon after his mother died from cancer in 1985. His appeal within Pakistan and to the diaspora Pakistani community raised enough funds to open the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in 1994, in Lahore. It is a hugely successful project with 75% of patients receiving free treatment. He also spearheaded a successful project to build Namal University, which provides scholarship assistance to over 90% of its students.
A Sporting Legend: Prior to entering politics, Imran Khan played professional cricket for 22 years and is recognised as one of the game’s finest all-rounders. His ability to lead and unite an often disparate team culminated in Pakistan winning the 1992 world cup. It is this ability and success that many hope can be replicated in the political field.
Covid-19: Pakistan has received international accolade for its policy response of smart lockdowns, demonstrating the intelligent use of accurate data.