The novel Don Quixote by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes is considered one of the most influential works of literature. The story follows a man named Alonso Quixano who reads chivalry romances all the time and as a result, he loses his sanity and decides to become a knight errant reviving chivalry to serve his country under the name of Don Quixote.
This classic was written in the 17th century, but we never knew that Cervantes was actually writing about a character who would take the helm of affairs in Pakistan.
Imran Khan, the man who is the prime minister of Pakistan, has actually done what Don Quixote did in the novel. Khan in his bid to gain power not only lost his sanity and revived chivalry but also created a whole generation of characters like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Since Khan has taken charge of the country, other than repeating his tall claims and victimizing his political opponents, he has done nothing to fix the economy and other crises. He made lofty claims of turning Pakistan into a developed country within a few days, but contrary to that, what we have seen early in his rule is a major currency and economic crisis.
While the Pakistani rupee has been losing value against the US dollar, the stock exchange crashed early this week, and electricity tariffs and gas bills are soaring, Khan took another U-turn, going to beg the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package. During his entire political career Khan was of the view that begging from other countries and taking loans from the IMF were the root causes of all of Pakistan’s problems, vowing that when came to power he would never ask the IMF for loans or beg countries like Saudi Arabia for free oil and money to cover come the country’s current-account deficit.
Like Don Quixote, Khan was probably sure that after he assumed the office of prime minister, expatriate Pakistanis would send billions of dollars as a charity to him to fix the country’s problems. He in his hallucinations was sure that he would bring back the imaginary billion dollars of looted money from the Swiss banks and the United Kingdom.
However, when he assumed office he learned this very simple point, that neither is there any way to run a state on charity nor there is there any way to turn imaginary loot into real money.
His delay in requesting an IMF bailout package resulted in the looming currency crisis, the stock-market crash, and the rise in inflation. The day the Pakistani stock market crashed, instead of addressing the issue to restore the confidence of investors, our Pakistani Don Quixote chose to focus on making new toilets and launched a campaign to keep public toilets clean.
It takes no rocket science to understand that most of the public toilets in Pakistan are provided by gasoline stations. While there is no legislation that makes it requisite for them to offer public toilets, Khan’s latest stunt will surely encourage these gas stations to shut down the rest areas that are already operational, as Khan threatens to fine them heavily if they are not found clean.
From selling cows at Prime Minister House to turning the governor residences into public picnic spots, we now have this latest public-toilet cleaning campaign. Instead of coming up with any solid economic policy or reforms, he is happily living in his own hallucinations, and with the support of his benefactors he is managing to convince his supporters that hallucination is reality.
The foreign reserves of Pakistan in Nawaz Sharif’s tenure as prime minister were the highest ever, and in October 2016 stood at US$24 billion. The Pakistani stock market recorded its highest ever level of 52,876 points.
Under the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government, economic growth was the highest in the country’s history. The inflation rate was kept in single digits by Sharif’s government, and was just 3.2% in March 2018. The US dollar under finance minister Ishaq Dar was equivalent to 105 rupees. Each and every indicator was showing progress, but then Don Quixote in the form of Imran Khan was launched by the invisible forces to weaken Sharif’s growing popularity and dent his vote bank.
Perhaps it is Pakistan that is suffering more than Sharif or the PML-N. The dollar has soared to 138 rupees now, and foreign reserves have shrunk to a mere $8.94 billion. Yet the Imran Khan-led government has no clue or plan to sort out the problems.
In fact, Khan’s focus is still on Sharif and in rewarding his cronies with public offices. His best friends are enjoying cabinet-minister status while Jahangir Tareen, his best buddy, is running the show in Punjab from behind the scenes, as he cannot hold any public office because of his disqualification by the Supreme Court.
It seems even the establishment was not expecting that Khan and his team would have no plan or skills to run state affairs. At least that is what we have seen in this short span of the Imran Khan-led government that has taken U-turns, backtracked from promises, promoted nepotism and done nothing but make tall claims and recite slogans.
The current situation is reminiscent of the famous dialogue between Don Quixote and his recruit Sancho Panza: “Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those 30 or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves.”
“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.
“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”
“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”
“Obviously,” replied Don Quixote, “you don’t know much about adventures.”
One hopes that unlike Don Quixote, Khan has more to offer than adventurism and seeing imaginary monsters as Pakistan is heading toward a serious economic crisis and global isolation, as it is impossible to run the country with the Don Quixote approach of romance with hallucination and chivalry.