Analysing two years of Imran Khan’s performance as PM of Pakistan
August 18 this year marked the completion of two years of Prime Minister of Pakistan. It would appear that Pakistan watchers, media and the analysts were watching with impatience for this date to come so that they can immediately record their impressions of Imran Khan's progress report. Their appraisals are all over the media space within and outside Pakistan. Unfortunately, there are hardly any positive comments visible in the press or in the cyberspace about him Judging by these, it is more than evident that Imran's scorecard has been much below par in the last two years and the Pakistani people are generally very disappointed by the dismal performance by their Premier.
Imran Khan's aspirations to become the Prime Minister of his country first surfaced when after winning the World Cup cricket in 1992, he seemed inclined to join politics to taste the power. People blindly believed his integrity and their hopes were raised when he promised a 'Naya Pakistan' during his election campaigning through his relatively nascent political party Pakistan Tahreek e Insaaf (PTI) which avowed to rid Pakistan of the malaise of corruption.
However, with initial hiccups, Imran Khan reached the pinnacle of his political ambition and was voted to power as the Prime Minister two years ago as perhaps the public and the military were fed up with the military reign of Musharraf and rampant corruption of Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz and the allies. Hence, Imran was given a chance by the country as part of an experiment to see if he could deliver. But Imran failed to comply with his election promises, his manifesto and all other assurances he had given to his electorate.
The only astute thing he embarked upon was to lean completely on the armed forces keeping them in the right side unconditionally and without any reservations. That possibly suited the deep state and the Khaki who held his hand to run their writ as they desired. De-facto, the military ran and is still running the show and Imran Khan continues to be only a ceremonial head. At least, that's what has been happening for the last a couple of years.
Let's take the terror scene in Pakistan. Terrorists still remain active and strike at will. Different homegrown terror outfits are completely out of control though they are selectively used for cross border attacks in Kashmir and in Afghanistan. In clear terms, the targets are India specific be it a Sikh Gurudwara in Afghanistan, Indian aided infrastructure in any part of Afghanistan or the troops or anti-separatist nationalist forces in Kashmir. Imran had not, or possibly could not contain these outfits. Other than sponsoring trans-border terror attacks, Pakistan under Imran's leadership has failed to comply with the conditions laid by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It wanted its compliance by June this year but extended the deadline due to the ongoing pandemic. Despite the fresh breathing time, we don't see any abatement on terror financing or terror-linked money laundering. On the contrary, reports claim that many known terrorists' names have been taken off the list given by the UN. Also, notorious figures like Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed and their affiliates continue to enjoy a restriction-free environ with all the fringe comforts and material benefits.
Within Pakistan, there was the deadly terror assault at the Karachi Stock Exchange end of June this year. The Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for these daring attacks exposing the chinks in the armour of the security establishment. It also signified the abject intelligence failure. Importantly, different Baluch dissident outfits seem totally defiant raising the terror potential and propensity. It's a serious challenge which Imran Khan has not been able to address at all. In fact, Baluch related activities have risen manifold in the last two years.
Let's come to the foreign policy part of the Imran regime. In the last two years, Imran Khan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has messed up the foreign policy which looks to be beyond repair now. The most recent fiasco by him has angered the traditional ally Saudi Arabia which doesn't appear to be in any mood to mend the fences with Pakistan. Imran is under severe criticism for his failure to deal with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the issue of Kashmir. The Army chief Gen Bajwa and ISI head, Faiz Hameed are currently in the Saudi kingdom to apologise and makeup but chances of any rapprochement look remote.
Earlier last year, Imran Khan on his trip to the US to meet President Trump had taken with him his Army Chief Bajwa which surprised many. Yet, it confirmed the suspicion that the army is still calling the shots in Pakistan and its footprint is more profound than Imran's be it to handle Saudi Arabia or the US. Still worse is Pakistan's growing closeness to Turkey which is desperate to pull Pakistan out of the Saudi camp. China, of course, remains its staunchest ally enjoying a complete sway on Pakistan's economy or territorial strategic interests.
Imran Khan is also denounced rather vehemently for his halfhearted and vague stance in handling the COVID crisis. In addition to this, rise in the cases of religious intolerance, hunger, poverty and allied issues have shown Imran in very dim light exposing his poor governance style. No wonder the Pakistani opposition has described his two-year reign as an unmitigated disaster. Such a charge doesn't look much off the mark. Out of the 51 promises made by Imran for a 'Naya' Pakistan, hardly five of them were met, that too very faintly.
As one daily remarked recently that Imran's aspirations of a Naya Pakistan and Jinnah's dream of Pakistan lie in tatters only in a period of 73 years. There also doesn't seem any glimmer of hope in the coming months.
The writer is a retired IPS officer and a security analyst. He was also the former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are personal