A civilian ambassador to the United States is recalled home after asking the American military to help prevent a military coup in his home country. The president denies asking America for help. The military denies it runs things or wants to run things. The ex-ambassador remains in house arrest while the president (alternatively known as corrupt, depressed, schizophrenic, and a numbskull) flees to Dubai for medical treatment.
As the rotting edifice of Pakistani politics sinks further in disrepute and shame, it begs the question, “Is there any chance it will get any better?” If the Pakistani military were as good defending the nation as playing politics, perhaps Pakistan would still have Bangladesh, taken Kashmir, and wouldn’t be dealing with so much terrorism in their own backyard. If President Zardari, a man so grotesquely out of touch with his people that he visited his French chateau during the worst floods in Pakistan’s history, was as good at governing as he was at stealing, perhaps he would not have to worry about being overthrown every other week. And if the opposition was not so full of incompetent crooks, perhaps they would actually win an election.
But that brings us to perhaps the only rays of light in Pakistani politics, the perhaps last two honest men in a world of sleaze, nepotism, and murder. One is Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry, a man who lost his job because he said General Musharraf could not be president and general at the same time. His firing led to a political revolt that led to the overthrow of Musharraf and the return of “democracy” to Pakistan. Unfortunately, this led to the return of Asif Ali Zardari who managed to use his wife’s death and her famous last name to win Parliament and then the presidency. He reluctantly let Judge Chaudhry back into office after protests only to see him sue Zardari for corruption. The Supreme Court could dismiss his government at any time.
The only other honest man is perhaps Imran Khan, the Pakistan cricket captain who won the 1992 World Cup. An Oxford-educated ex-playboy, his political party has only won one seat in 15 years….. his own. But in an era where Pakistanis are tired of the rigged two party system (three if you count the military), he has drawn hundreds of thousands to his political rallies. In the era of worldwide revolution, why him and why now?
Imran Khan built an honest charitable cancer hospital named after his mother from money he won from the World Cup. 75% of patients are treated with support from the 25% that are private patients. In a nation where wealth is inherited or embezzled, his money comes sport not stealing. Building a support base from a middle class that has not participated in politics on a grand scale, Imran Khan hopes to win the next election with the support of young people tired of politicians living in palatial wealth while giving nothing to regular people. He also pushes for an end to the war in Afghanistan and for drone attacks that have killed hundreds of innocent people. Khan frightens Washington. India, on the other hand, would likely be delighted if he does as he says and uses cricket and common sense to build bridges between the two nations.
But Imran Khan has had some blind spots in the past. He supported Musharraf’s coup against Nawaz Sharif and is allegedly supported by the Pakistani military. As a Johnny-come-lately to Islam after years of women and womanizing, feminists fear that he would fail to repeal medieval Islamic rape laws to show how Muslim he is.
One thing is clear though. If there is one man to watch in South Asian politics in the next year, keep your eyes on this former cricket captain. After 15 years in the political wilderness, now is his time.
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