Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan chose Saudi Arabia for his first trip abroad. He said that whoever came into power in Pakistan, they would always choose Saudi Arabia for their first trip because of the two nations’ close ties.
Answering a question about attempted missile attacks on Saudi soil, he vowed to stand by the Arab state. However, he did not raise issues about Yemenis under constant fire from the Gulf States. 50,000 Yemeni children died last year due to a Saudi embargo on food and medicine. The number has thus far gone up.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office did not condemn the attack on a school bus in Yemen that killed 40 children nor the one that took place 15 days later. A month before the attacks, Saudis had activated a $4.5 Billion oil-financing facility for Pakistan.
As disheartening his silence on the biggest humanitarian crisis was, his words offered no relief either to those hoping for a real change in Pakistan.
In an interview he gave to Al Arabiya, he praised the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. Given the fact that Pakistan needs billions of dollars to meet its’ debt commitments, it was no surprise that Khan would glorify the Crown Prince. The shock came when Khan praised MBS’s stance on fighting corruption, calling him a ‘role model’.
Khan’s chief political rival, Nawaz Sharif just got his jail term suspended by the High Court. A separate NAB court had sentenced Sharif to a decade in jail.
Sharif’s Trial as the Prime Minister
There was a political storm when the Supreme Court first rejected Khan’s petition and then accepted it amid his threats of a lockdown. The court disqualified Sharif from holding any public office and ordered the NAB court to try him and his family on corruption charges.
The laws of Pakistan are obscure. There is no real culture of stare decisis as some decrees and decisions made under army dictators still hold true. The premise of Sharif’s disqualification too was based on a law that Parliament under a dictator had passed.
When the NAB court sentenced Sharif to jail, Ali Ahmed Kurd, arguably the greatest mind in Pakistani law, called the judgment ‘flawed’. Sharif’s party agreed and claimed that under of guise of fighting corruption, NAB was warping laws to help Khan win the elections.
Back to Khan’s Recent Comments
His praise of MBS gives weight to some of those claims. MBS does not care about austerity. His stance against corruption was a political move to consolidate his hold on power. While he was preaching austerity at home, he bought a $400 million yacht and a $300 million Chateau in France. When NYTimes broke the story and exposed the web of companies he had used to shelter his purchase, he was livid.
Most of those that MBS accused of corruption were his political rivals. He beat and tortured the detainees. They had no legal rights, representation, or contact with their families. MBS forced them to sign checks and papers to seize their assets.
Should a democratic PM call such a tyrant his role model?
Should this be the modus operandi of a PM who vowed to respect and uphold the law?
The media didn’t zero-in on his comments about MBS’ fight against corruption.
Days later, speaking to the Parliament, a minister of his cabinet lauded the torture of Saudi detainees. He suggested that the Prime Minister hang the accused upside down as means of recovering stolen assets.
Within hours, he apologized while Prime Minister Khan is yet to realize the impropriety of his statement.
Even though Khan has a knack for saying wrong things at the wrong times, his words as PM of a nuclear power nation matter. He is showing signs of men who play great opposition but cannot lead.