Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 24, 2019. – Khan said Tuesday that both the United States and Saudi Arabia asked him to mediate with Iran to defuse tensions. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)
The message to world leaders is loud and clear: In a dramatic shift from the past, our country is no longer a pawn, a joke or a global bystander. But there’s still a long way to go
Saba Karim and Farrukh Karim Khan
Imran Khan’s election victory in Pakistan last year was greeted by an outpouring of optimism and derision. The day he won, he appeared on television, visibly elated to address a celebrating Pakistan. Though he stuck to his campaign promises, he sounded different. As he stared straight into the eyes of his people, offering assurances that it wasn’t time to worry, presenting himself front-line for accountability, promising a Naya (new) Pakistan, it seemed he had finally transitioned from politician to Statesman: honest, conciliatory, human. In a country where hope had long crossed its sell-by date, his words offered a renewed lease of life and people clung on fiercely. Since then, his authentic, stirring avatar has reappeared, evoking long-buried patriotism among hungered Pakistanis.
What Khan’s rallying for a Naya Pakistan did, however, was inflate expectations. Between wild-eyed fanaticism and outright bashing, most forgot the messy, scattered, gargantuan prospect Pakistan really is. Undeniably, Pakistan has been heading in the wrong direction for the last five decades; an extractive political system created a rent-seeking political and economic elite, benefitting a sliver of society at the expense of the masses. Fleeting periods appeared when the sea wasn’t choppy, but change never sustained. Amid the backdrop of such missgovernance, Khan’s rise as a legitimate political alternative led to the fanning of irrational expectancies.