After claiming election victory in 2018 Pakistan elections, Imran Khan gave a 15-minute address that decimated all arguments to undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process. He gave the framework for his foreign policy, economic agenda, education reforms, and healthcare facilities. Reaching out to his political opponents, he pledged not to engage in political victimization that he has been at the receiving end of for the past 20-years.
Domestic and international polls signaled a tight race between Imran Khan’s PTI and Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N) as a result Sharifs hired international lobbying firms to curry favor with the major powers. Editors and representatives of Pakistani newspapers with close ties to the Sharifs also got to work. In response to Sharif’s venomous rhetoric that international Jewish lobby concocted a conspiracy with Pakistan Army to oust him, a handful of close aides distanced themselves from Sharif.
To give this political fall out a sophisticated view, 5 out of hundreds of newspapers and media outlets in Pakistan echoed Sharif’s narrative (without any evidence) that the military was forcing people away from him. Not one opinion from the remaining hundreds of Pakistani media outlets was published in elite newspapers (such as NYTimes and WSJ) while representatives from the minority of newspapers routinely presented a distorted view of reality to their American and international readers.
The most pro-military compatriot of Sharif, Chaudhry Nisar, lost in every district he contested in what the international media framed as military-orchestrated rigged elections.
If the European Union’s official verdict saying that the 2018 elections in Pakistan were free and fair wasn’t enough, Imran Khan’s first public address puts international propaganda points to rest.
1. “Nawaz Sharif was ousted because he wanted better ties with India”
When the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified Nawaz Sharif from holding a public office over corruption charges, his allies in the minority media furthered his argument that Pakistan army did not him reaching out to India. This opinion found its’ way in a swathe of Op-Eds published in NYTimes.
Imran Khan went a couple of steps further than Sharif saying that better elections with India would be beneficial for the entire region. He offered to hold table talks with India on the issue of Kashmir with no pre-conditions. In pursuit of lasting peace, he offered to move 2 inches closer to India if they moved an inch towards him.
Pakistan army would not have replaced Nawaz Sharif with Imran Khan if Khan wanted better ties with India twice as much as Sharif did. Unsurprisingly, in dozens of articles published already in India and the West since Khan’s address, no writer (to my knowledge) has even alluded to that point.
2. “The Military Rigged the Elections in Khan’s Favor”
The second most-prominent propaganda point leading up to elections was the accusation that military officers guarding polling stations would rig elections in Khan’s favor.
Firstly, if it weren’t for Pakistan Election Commission that Sharif’s party had controlled for the past 5 years, military officers wouldn’t even be at the stations. It was not the military that demanded presence at polling stations but rather the Election Commission requested their protection amid violence targeting political campaigns. The Chief election officials at the commission are all Sharif appointees who unanimously deduced that 2018 elections were the fairest in Pakistan’s 70-year history.
Khan in his address expressed total willingness to recount any of the polling stations that his opponents wanted and investigate any and all of their complaints against the fairness of 2018 elections. If the military had rigged elections in Khan’s favor, he wouldn’t have made such an offer since just 5 years ago; Sharif had refused to do a voter recount in 4 districts. He could have followed the precedents that past government set, but he chose not to. Thus, Khan’s unprecedented approach is indicative of his desire to preserve the will of the people even if it costs him a few seats in the Parliament.
This point also has been missing from the articles published since Khan’s address yesterday.
3. Imran Khan is Soft on Terror
When NATO forces invaded Afghanistan to fight terror, Imran Khan came out against the invasion and argued that dialogue would be the best way to resolve the crisis. Taliban and Afghan government even expressed the desire to capture and extradite Bin Laden but President Bush and Dick Cheney ordered the invasion anyway. Just like the progressives in the United States, Imran Khan faced ridicule, was called unpatriotic, and even labeled ‘Taliban Khan’.
He faced even more ire when he referred to children of dead terrorists as ‘our children’ and said that it was the responsibility of Pakistani government to look after them. Fighting the stigma that entailed the lives of hundreds of thousands of tribal children, he advocated for quotas that would familiarize those children with western education. When his party took power in the state of KPK, he brought Madrassas under Government oversight and rampant terrorist attacks have ceased since then.
As the United States government looks to start a dialogue with the Taliban that controls more territory today than they did 17 years ago, Khan has been vindicated. But where the elite media called Khan’s stance a capitulation to extremists, America’s approach is being regarded as a triumph of sanity.
Why Do the Media Hate Khan?
Nawaz Sharif rarely if ever stood up to world powers for Pakistani interests. He accepted degradation, rebukes, and insults to Pakistan as long as he personally enjoyed the support of the International establishment. He never criticized America’s invasion of neighboring of Iraq or Afghanistan and never publicly rebuked India even after Pakistani forces arrested a serving RAW officer who admitted to providing support to terrorists.
Khan thinks for himself and has the audacity to express his thoughts unfiltered. Questioning America’s widespread presence in the region, he has condemned drone strikes and called them counterproductive since less than 1% of those killed in drone strikes are deemed ‘high-value targets’.
It is down to the tick of time whether Khan makes good on his promises and accomplishes what his voters expect but as things stand, he has been at the receiving end of attacks from the elite media in favor of more ‘establishment-friendly politicians’. Remember Bernie?