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Elections In Pakistan: What Can, What If, What’s Up?

March 31, 2013 2 comments

Pakistani media and polity seem to be addressing mostly urban issues. How will the rural voter respond?

Phuttt, phutt, phut ...! This is a make or break election for Pakistan. Probably the best organized  |  Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on March 30, 2013; image source & courtesy - tribune.com.pk

Phuttt, phutt, phut …! This is a make or break election for Pakistan. Probably the best organized | Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on March 30, 2013; image source & courtesy – tribune.com.pk

Pakistan attracts stereotypes to the mind like a swarm of flies.

Inviting Images

Among others, civil war, terrorism, bomb blasts, fundamentalist Islam are common stereotypes about Pakistan. Some of these stereotypes are valid – and some are downright irrelevant.

For instance, more people die in the US due to gun-related violence compared to Pakistan. For another, it is worthwhile to remember and understand that Pakistan has never (in its limited election history) elected a fundamentalist party.

The different sides of Pakistani Polity  |  Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on August 25, 2008; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

The different sides of Pakistani Polity | Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on August 25, 2008; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

This will be the first time in Pakistan’s troubled history that an election will pave the way for transfer of power – and not a coup or martial law. For the first time in nearly seventy years, Pakistan has evaded the ritualized murder of Pakistani polity by the Pakistani army.

The short-shrift given by Pakistan’s power centres to orderly elections and transfer of power is not a stereotype.

This Sauce is Different

The three most significant differences in this election, compared to previous elections are in the manner that Pakistan’s polity has acted to protect the poll outcome. It seems unlikely that there will be any significant post-poll dissonance due to three measures.

Who will do the electioneering for PPP - with Bilawal out of the country?  |  Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on March 28, 2013; image source & courtesy - tribune.com.pk

Who will do the electioneering for PPP – with Bilawal out of the country? | Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on March 28, 2013; image source & courtesy – tribune.com.pk

It does seem like this will be an election that Pakistan will be proud of.

One – is the appointment of a non-competitive caretaker administration at national level – headed by retired Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, and at the provincial level in Punjab with the appointment of Najam Sethi.

Two – Voter lists have been rigorously updated. Some 3.5 crore voter records were found invalid and deleted – and some 3.9 crore new voters added.

Three – The centre of debate is Pakistan’s economy. Nawaz Sharif is talking of an economic explosion – unlike the nuclear explosion last time. PPP is depending on an income-support scheme for the poor that they have implemented. Imran Khan’s 6-promises are all about bringing peace back to the nation. It has been speculated that the Iran-Pakistan oil pipeline agreement signed by the ruling-PPParty, is to reassure restive voters that it has a solution for electricity shortages plaguing Pakistan.

Pakistani media and polity seem to be addressing mostly urban issues.  |  Cartoon by Zahoor on February 03, 2010; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

Pakistani media and polity seem to be addressing mostly urban issues. | Cartoon by Zahoor on February 03, 2010; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Is Popularity Enough?

Imran Khan is by far ahead of all other leaders in Pakistan in terms of personal popularity. His first rally after elections were notified, attracted 1-lakh people – closer to 1.5-lakh people according to some other estimates.

Will Imran Khan’s popularity convert into votes?

In India, for decades, election rallies by Nehru-Gandhi family, starting with Indira Gandhi could attract voters for election rallies – but after 1989 elections has not been able to convert voter turnout into votes.

Is Imran facing a similar challenge? Equally, many popular leaders have converted their personal popularity to votes – especially in South India.

Look Who’s Talking

Radio Pakistan seems to be giving good coverage to Imran Khan going by these tweets.

Print media and Pakistan’s huge satire ‘industry’ however is quite dismissive of Imran Khan. Including the like of MajorlyProfound (now probably under the handle of majorlyp).

https://twitter.com/InvincibleHeart/status/317651280866721792

Many from the English-media are quite dismissive of Imran Khan

Apparently, Musharraf has lived up to his earlier threats. He has returned - to what? A nation that cannot imagine a role for him?  |  Cartoon by Zahoor on August 15, 2009; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

Apparently, Musharraf has lived up to his earlier threats. He has returned – to what? A nation that cannot imagine a role for him? | Cartoon by Zahoor on August 15, 2009; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Gear Ratios In A Democracy

PPP may get more women’s votes due to BISP income support scheme. Imran Khan has connected to Pakistan’s youth. Nawaz Sharif is appealing the mature male voter who wants the Pakistan economy to do better. None of these constituencies form a majority.

Finally, the winner may be the party that can get its constituents to come and vote at the polling booth.

The Players

Ex-general Musharraf seems to be n0n-starter and non-entity in Pakistan.

Pakistanis sought to drive home the point that Indians held the former Army chief in greater esteem that his own fellow nationals.

The kind of media coverage his return got in India, and the frequency with which he appears on Indian television channels and gets invited to conclaves organised by the media across the border has raised eyebrows here often enough

via Proud of Kargil operation, says Musharraf – The Hindu.

Which political unit is connecting to this Pakistani?  |  Cartoon by Zahoor on March 03, 2006; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

Which political unit is connecting to this Pakistani? | Cartoon by Zahoor on March 03, 2006; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Interestingly, Imran Khan’s campaign is well-funded according to some reports.

They were drawn from all over the country through a well-financed and heavily advertised campaign. But they were also drawn, they said, by a simple yet nebulous message. “We want change,”

via Pakistan: Ex-Cricket Star, Ex-President Kick Off Election Campaign | TIME.com.

Imran  Khan’s acceptance by Pashtuns, FATA, Pakhtunkhwa makes him a rare leader with acceptance across various segments.

There are concerns among some of Khan’s supporters about his attitude to the Pakistani Taliban – wanting to negotiate with them – and the decision to work with the Jamaat-e-Islami, a hard-line religious party. But the mere fact that he represents a political force that hasn’t been compromised by power works in his favor — as does Khan’s celebrity. “He won us the Cricket World Cup,” says Shah, “he built us a cancer hospital, and he’s really good looking.”

via Pakistan: Ex-Cricket Star, Ex-President Kick Off Election Campaign | TIME.com.

Will this man get taken in shiny projects?  |  Cartoon by Zahoor on November 22, 2005; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

Will this man get taken in shiny projects? | Cartoon by Zahoor on November 22, 2005; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Numbers talk you know …

After 2ndlook called the 2009 Indian election correctly, among many other correct calls, encourages 2ndlook make an attempt at reading Pakistan’s election.

Sixty and seven months ago, when Musharraf was on rampage in Pakistan and Imran Khan was no one in Pakistan’s politics, 2ndlook examined the idea of Imran Khan’s rise in Pakistan.

  1. It is worthwhile to remember and understand that Pakistan has never (in its limited election history) elected a fundamentalist party – unlike say, Egypt.
  2. Since none of the three main players are making a fundamentalist Islamic pitch, this factor will affect no one – except some fringe parties.
  3. What if Imran-PTI consolidate the fringe-parties vote banks – and eat into PPP+PMLN? To me this model of voter behaviour, seems more likely than the static vote bank of PPP+PMLN theory.
  4. In this election, the main contenders, as per opinion polls in descending order are Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN (32%), Imran Khan’s PTI (18%) and Zardari’s PPP (14%).
  5. Not many have tried to make a model for opinion polls in Pakistan – which remain unreliable and have limited value. With this caveat made, raw data seems to suggest that PMLN-Nawaz Sharif are in a pole position for this election.
  6. Most of election analysis stops at Pakistan’s urban centres – while 60% of Pakistani voters are rural. Nawaz Sharif’s Lahore Metro Bus implementation in 11-months has made many political parties nervous. But will the rural Pakistani be impressed?
  7. Will PPP’s BISP attract more rural voters than Imran’s tsunami? Remember, how Chandrababu Naidu paid a price for ignoring the rural voter.
  8. After the fresh voter enrollment, nearly half of Pakistani voters now listed, have not voted before. Since most of these young voters are young, they are likely to be drawn towards Imran-PTI.
  9. Will the Lahore Metro make a difference to Nawaz Sharif? Outside Lahore? Seems unlikely.

Keeping the above factors in mind, what are the likely outcomes.

In the name of the poor and dispossessed ... |  Cartoon by Zahoor on September 02, 2008; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

In the name of the poor and dispossessed … | Cartoon by Zahoor on September 02, 2008; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Scenario-1

Imran-PTI emerge as the single-largest party, with a thin majority – or miss becoming the single largest party by a few seats. Imran dithers. Announces that he will sit in the opposition, as he does not have a clear mandate. PTI MPs defect or PTI splits. Most likely PPP wins over the defector faction. Makes a claim to form government. Zardari agrees. Protests engulf Pakistan.

Scenario-2

As per opinion polls, PMLN emerges as the single largest party. Wins over MPs from PTI-Imran and others. Forms government.

Scenario-3

Opposite of opinion polls, PPP emerges as the single largest party – riding on women’s vote. Wins over MPs from PTI-Imran, PMLN and others. Forms government.

Senario-4

One of the three main parties gets a parliamentary majority – and forms the government. Seems like the most unlikely scenario.

Seemingly, Imran is preparing for a narrow victory. Most importantly, is Imran preparing for a narrow loss?


How the coming elections can change Pakistan. Or will it change anything?

June 25, 2012 6 comments

Elections in Yumm-Rika and Pakistan are holding up some vital decisions across the world.

This head-butting may continue till elections in US and Pakistan are over - and the new dispensations are in place to make the necessary decisions  |  Cartoonist Sabir Nazar in November 2011; source & courtesy - sabirnazar.blogspot.com  |  Click for larger image.

This head-butting may continue till elections in US and Pakistan are over – and the new dispensations are in place to make the necessary decisions | Cartoonist Sabir Nazar in November 2011; source & courtesy – sabirnazar.blogspot.com | Click for larger image.

Hard & Soft

Mostly due to Obama’s election compulsions, the US is playing hard-to-get for Pakistan. In an election year, Yumm-Rika cannot be soft on Pakistan, an Islāmic country.

Pakistan too is using this opportunity to score brownie points at home.Pakistani leaders are putting up a show of getting close to India, renewing all-weather pledges with China – trying to convince the financiers and the electorate.

Pakistani politicians are not missing any trick in the book.

Come to Daddy

Come a new President in US, all bets are off. Pakistan will be back to its usual self – as will the US.

Proposing some bold scenarios, this post below, published in Pakistan and in Russia also, tells us that

The situation Karachi - and by extension in Pakistan also  |  Cartoonist Sabir Nazar in August 2011; source & courtesy - pakistantoday.com.pk  |  Click for larger image.

The situation Karachi – and by extension in Pakistan also | Cartoonist Sabir Nazar in August 2011; source & courtesy – pakistantoday.com.pk | Click for larger image.

Pakistan is looking to the East for help. We (Pakistan) are pinning our hopes on regional cooperation through blocs such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). This bloc boasts support from two major regional powers – Russia and China.We have numerous reasons to support this alliance. For instance, despite all cooperation and the consequent suffering, Pakistan continues to face immense pressure from America.

Russia and the Central Asian countries have supported Pakistan’s desire to become a full member of the organisation, while China has refrained from doing so. Sergei Lavrov, the acting Russian Foreign Minister, in a recent SCO meeting pushed for India and Pakistan’s membership in the SCO, coupled with more involvement in the Afghan security situation in a post Nato withdrawal scenario.

Pakistan must convince Beijing that Islamabad’s full participation in the organisation will be useful in addressing major regional issues. Pakistan must seize the moment, and exploit regional energy resources by partnering with Russia, China and India for energy and commercial trade.

Let’s free ourselves (Pakistan) from the hold of the West by embracing our friends in the East. (via China and Russia can free Pakistan of the US – English pravda.ru).

Pakistan is trying out all diplomatic moves while the US is in election mode  |  Cartoonist Sabir Nazar; March 2, 2012; source & courtesy - sabirnazar.blogspot.com  |  Click for larger image.

Pakistan is trying out all diplomatic moves while the US is in election mode | Cartoonist Sabir Nazar; March 2, 2012; source & courtesy – sabirnazar.blogspot.com | Click for larger image.

Two thoughts

One – China, Pakistan’s all-weather friend is also playing hard to get. While Russia is supporting Pakistan’s membership in SCO, it is China which is delaying Pakistan’s entry.

Two – As soon as the new US President, which may turn out to be Obama himself, is sworn in, Pakistan and US may rush into each others arms. US and Pakistan suits each others goals so well, that it may be difficult for both to find a replacement for either.

But Russia and China are a different kettle of fish. They are unlikely to wink at Pakistan’s terror factories. Nor do China and Russia have any use of Pakistan as a hired gun – in Imran Khan’s memorable words.

This leaves Pakistan with little wiggle room. Will a mercenary Pakistani leadership accept this situation?

Yes.

If the Pakistani leader is Imran Khan.

And that is why China may be delaying SCO membership, till Pakistani elections are over.


Can Imran Khan Win the Coming Election in Pakistan?

June 19, 2012 1 comment

Four years ago, it may have seemed even silly to talk of Imran Khan as a political force in Pakistan? Any different now?

Between Imran and the Mullah, who will win?|  Cartoon by Zahoor on December 12, 2008; dailytimes.com.pk  |  Click for image.

Between Imran and the Mullah, who will win?| Cartoon by Zahoor on December 12, 2008; dailytimes.com.pk | Click for image.

Silly notions

Four years ago, when Imran Khan was was a non-starter in Pakistani politics, it seemed foolish to talk about him seriously.

Especially when it came to India-Pakistan relations.

Like this small video excerpt (below, with transcript) from Julian Assange-Imran Khan interview shows, Imran is not wet behind his ears.

And Indian Foreign Policy management now has at least one more admirer.

Imran Khan has got me thinking …

But still …

What can a retired cricketer do? What role could he have? Does he have the intellectual depth? Would the five Pakistan’s accept him?

Death threats

Why is it that there no death threats to Imran Khan?A google search revealed none. Though the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital he established, was blown up.

Is he too small a target? Completely irrelevant, is he? Is it that he is big only outside Pakistan – but is a nothing in Pakistan? Is he a English-language media creation? Maybe the death threats have not trickled down to India? Or google? Was his Karachi rally, which attracted crowds in tens-of-thousands, more of money-and-organization than people power?

But, I am curious … this is nagging me.

Even Jemima Khan, his ex-wife, now in London got threats.

Factions in Pakistan

What do the five Pakistan’s think of him?

Many think that Imran Khan has no ideas. For instance,

his strategy for dealing with the Taliban and other Islamic militants has led to charges that he is soft on extremists. His plan is to order the Army to withdraw from the unruly tribal areas and start a dialogue with the militants. To him the war in Afghanistan and on the Pakistan border conforms to “Einstein’s definition of madness: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result … The Pakistan Army is killing its own people. It’s the most shameful period in our history. We created militants through collateral damage, and we are creating more militants through collateral damage. It’s a ruling elite which sold its soul for dollars.” (via Imran Khan May Become Pakistan’s Next Prime Minister – The Daily Beast).

Among the competing groups in Pakistan are, first the army and the ISI combination. Then there are the popular politicians who participate in elections. Add the third element – mullah-madrasa-mujahhid combine of fundamentalist clergy, various terrorist groups – like JeM, LeT, Al Qaida, various Taliban factions et al.

The economy and wealth is in hands of the fourth element – the 22 families that matter in Pakistan. Mahbub-ul-Haq’s “22 families” speech in Karachi in 1968 highlightedthe power and wealth of a few families in Pakistan.

And bringing up the rear, is the fifth part of Pakistan, who don’t matter.

The Rest of Pakistan.

How do they perceive Imran Khan.

Newsweek’s online edition, The Daily Beast thinks he is going to be the next PM of Pakistan? I have no idea how good the statistical model for opinion polls in Pakistan is? For whatever it is worth, he is sitting on a 68% approval rating. That should make him a shoo-in come March.

Whaddya think?

More importantly, what do Pakistanis think?

Julian Assange: How would you reconfigure the Pakistan relationship with the United States? Would it be a complete severance? What would you do? Permit them (unclear) strikes? What kind of intelligence cooperation? What would you do in practice?

Imran Khan: Eh … Have a relationship based on dignity self respect. So, it should be (thinking) … a relationship like (slight pause) … US has with India. It should not be a relationship about client-master relationship. And even worse here, (pain) Pakistan as a hired gun. Being paid to kill America’s enemies. It’s not … It is a relationship that has failed. It’s niether delivered to the people of Pakistan nor has it delivered to the Americans.


Dealing With Pakistan

November 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Is this the best India can do in India-Pakistan diplomacy? Has India got it right in managing Pakistan? Ever.

Why is every trouble spot an ex-US ally - or a current US ally? Something rotten in the State of USA ... (Cartoon by Greenberg; source and courtesy - venturacountystar.com). Click for source image.

Why is every trouble spot an ex-US ally - or a current US ally? Something rotten in the State of USA ... (Cartoon by Greenberg; source and courtesy - venturacountystar.com). Click for source image.

Approaching Pakistan

Hate Pakistan? Silly idea. Fear Pakistan? Not viable. War with Pakistan? Possible – but not a plausible idea. Love Pakistan? At your own risk.

How do we deal with Pakistan?

There is one success that we can look at – and learn from.

Between 1985-2005, the India-Pakistan cricketing bodies worked together to stamp their authority on world cricket. A rare success in Indo-Pak relationship. An important influence in that relationship was Imran Khan.

Imran Khan is making his first serious attempt at winning Pakistan’s next election. On the latest India-Pakistan diplomatic movements, some half-formed thoughts in mainstream media extracted below.

New Delhi and Islamabad made multiple attempts to revive their fraught relationship since 26/11, but each floundered in the face of continued Pakistani military support for anti-India jihadists and unwillingness to act against the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage, the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Evidence that any of this has changed is thin — but there is some reason to believe that the Pakistan army, behind its bluster, is weaker than ever and, therefore, desperate to secure its eastern flank at a time it appears besieged from all sides.

For weeks now, Pakistan has been seeking to demonstrate its commitment to peace: the release of an Indian helicopter that strayed across the Line of Control and the tentative movement on opening trade across the border are among the signs of a thaw.

It is also clear, though, that Pakistan’s military isn’t about to turn on its Islamist proxies. (via The Hindu : Opinion / Lead : India, Pakistan, and God’s geostrategic will).

In the meantime a compendium of some 2ndlook posts to a nuanced approach – looking at Pakistan’s history, even before it came into existence.

2ndlook at the Pakistan Question

Believing Pakistan …?

The idea of Pakistan!

Pakistan – Shifting sands?

The ‘idea’ of Pakistan-II

The headache that is Pakistan

Pakistan – Blackmail as State Policy

Abbottabad does not quite add up

Pakistani diplomacy – a tour de force

Pakistan – An alienating identity

Confronting Pakistan’s official narrative

Redefining Kashmir, Pakistan – and India

1971 Bangla Desh War – Why was China quiet?

Pakistan. The Calculus has Changed

Pakistan and Kashmir – Regaining the narrative!

Kashmir – How US Supported Pakistan Subversion

The respect Pakistan deserves – and does not get

India Pakistan Cricket – new light or old wine …

Shadows across the playing field : 60 Years of India-Pakistan Cricket By Shashi Tharoor and Shahryar Khan

Shadows across the playing field : 60 Years of India-Pakistan Cricket By Shashi Tharoor and Shahryar Khan

Shashi Tharoor and Shahryar Khan in Shadows Across the Playing Field tries to provide answers by analysing 60 years of this intense cricketing rivalry, one, which has, on occasions superseded the intensity of the Ashes. (via something to hope for, and look forward to).

Nearly a year ago, 2ndlook wrote how Cricket administrators in India and Pakistan had managed to sustain a healthy business relationship for nearly 20 years.

This India Pakistan Cricketing relationship is very healthy – and has been managed by four people. Of course, there has been no case study, or a book or even a news report on this partnership. So some of this is my perception based on media interaction.

The four people in this complex relationship have been Jagmohan Dalmiya and Shahriyar Khan at the administration level. Between these two, they have managed a consensus between the Asian cricketing countries and South Africa. Jagmohan Dalmiya has a business background – and a career in cricket administration. Shahriyar Khan is a career diplomat and also a cricket administrator.

The other two are Sunil Gavaskar and Imran Khan – two well known and respected players in each of the countries. Between, these four, they have managed this complex cricketing relationship. Some of it is visible – but mostly, below the line. Especially, significant is the management of agreements.

Are things changing

This new book will probably throw some light on how this relationship was sustained and maintained – in spite of a adverse political climate and sometimes negative public opinion.

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