Asia Minute: New Leadership and Questions in Pakistan

Jul 27, 2018

Credit Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung / Flickr

Pakistan is headed for a new government. Opposition parties are claiming election fraud, but it appears a coalition government will be put together by a former cricket star.

Thirty years ago, streets and shops in the northwest frontier province city of Peshawar were filled with posters and calendars of Imran Khan. He was a cricket star, part of Pakistan’s national team for 16 years. Leading the way to its only Cricket World Cup in 1992.

Today, posters of the same man show a politician. And after elections this week, presumably the country’s next Prime Minister.

After his days as a cricket star, Imran Khan was known locally as a philanthropist — funding charity hospitals in Peshawar and Lahore.

He came late to politics, setting up a party in the mid-1990’s — the PTI or “Movement for Justice” — a centrist party with aspirations of reform in a political system where critics say corruption is a long-standing tradition. 

He came from a privileged background — upper middle class, graduating from Oxford.

Imran Khan
Credit World Economic Forum / Flickr

But there is much that is unclear about how Imran Khan would lead Pakistan. He’s criticized U.S. policy in the region, especially drone strikes, and has advocated direct negotiations with the Taliban. 

Critics say he is the choice of the military, and too close to religious conservatives to be a true reformer.

Late Thursday, Khan gave a victory speech, saying “we will run Pakistan like it’s never been run before.”