Imran Khan has been accused of bowing to religious extremists in Pakistan. Photo: AFP/Aamir Qureshi
Imran Khan could well return to power in Pakistan, and the US must be prepared to deal with him. Photo: AFP / Aamir Qureshi

Prime Minister Imran Khan is probably the only leader in recent times who has succeeded in developing a cult following among urban Pakistan’s educated middle-class elite.

The former cricket star’s emergence on the political scene and his subsequent rise to power resemble a fairy tale.

After Khan assumed power, people expected a measured and sane approach from him. But then Khan has the habit of surprising everyone, so since becoming the prime minister Khan’s opposition mindset has not changed. From reneging on promises to accusing his political enemies of wrongdoing without evidence, hardly a day has gone by that Khan has not made a disgrace of himself and his government.

The recent statement from Khan about justifying his failure to honor commitments and making false promises is another example of his hypocritical and flawed political philosophy. While talking to journalists Khan said, “A leader who does not take U-turns according to the situation is not a leader, and a leader who does not know how to take U-turns is the biggest fool.” He also said that Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte suffered huge defeats or incurred losses because they did not make U-turns.

This statement from the chief executive of a state has come as a surprise not only to the masses but also the international community and is a matter of growing concern. After all, a sitting prime minister has said that he can fail to honor his commitments and promises at any given time and that he does not think it matters much.

This raises questions about the lofty claims and promises he made about bringing about change in the country by eradicating corruption and putting the economy on the right track. In light of this statement, one can surmise that Khan was either lying to the masses about changing the system or he was sincere but will do another U-turn.

Since a propensity for making U-turns is a trait of a good leader in his eyes, it will not be long before he is telling the masses that he was lying about effecting change and that his promises were just cheap sloganeering.

Khan enjoys a cult-like status and his blind followers will surely defend his dubious statements, but the entire global community will definitely be concerned about his insincerity. Statements of this kind are to be expected from leaders with unstable minds like US President Donald Trump, and Khan, by claiming that a leader needs to lie validates his critics’ assertion that he is a Pakistani version of the US president.

In addition, Khan always uses religious citations in his speeches and assures that he will make Pakistan an Islamic state like Medina. One wonders if Khan has even a little knowledge of the state of Medina or even about the holy personalities from whom he derives his purported aspirations.

The caliphs never took U-turns and they disliked liars. The Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) said many times that people who fail to keep their promises or honor their commitments are hypocrites and he advised people to beware of such people.

Khan’s love of authoritarianism is evident from the reference he made to Hitler and Napolean

Khan’s love of authoritarianism is evident from the reference he made to Hitler and Napolean. Since Khan pretends he is a democrat, he should have used elected and democratic leaders as examples instead of dictators. Did Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of the nation, ever make a U-turn? Can he give examples of leaders like Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King ever reneging on their commitments or failing to live up to their principles?

As the leader of the country, how can you ask others to remain honest and fulfill their obligations when you are not willing to do it yourself? Khan’s inconsistency – his habit of changing his stances and narratives – has already proven too costly for the state of Pakistan, particularly for the democratic institutions.

States are not run by compulsively lying to the masses and the global community. As a head of state, maturity and consistency are expected from the elected prime minister, but unfortunately what we have seen so far is just U-turns and the denial of reality.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Khan think that by lying to the nation about the imaginary corruption of their opponents and by hiding the deteriorating state of the economy and their inability to govern, they will avoid a public backlash. This can be termed as living in a fool’s paradise as one can interpret the facts according to his own interpretation but this does not change the facts. The fact actually is that Khan and PTI have failed badly in fulfilling the commitments and promises made during the past few months.

Every sane individual knew that Khan was just trying to grab power by creating unrealistic hopes as no one has a magic stick that can eradicate decades of problems in 100 days or even within five years. Structural reforms and long-term policies require time and patience, and the ultimate goal of social and economic progress can never be achieved through false and unrealistic hopes and promises.

If the same sort of statement was made by Asif Ali Zardari or Nawaz Sharif, the media and the PTI propaganda machine would declare that they are certified liars and hypocrites. Because Khan is being pampered by the media on the orders of the invisible forces, his blunders are often ignored and never highlighted.

The Constitution of Pakistan demands honesty from elected representatives, especially now that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has invoked Article 62 and 63 many times against members of the PMLN and the PPP in recent times. It is time for Khan to be asked by the court to prove that he is sadiq and ameen (Urdu for truthful and virtuous).

The Constitution of Pakistan demands honesty from elected representatives

Khan needs to learn that a genuine leader is never afraid of admitting to temporary failures and there is no concept of lying or reneging in the books of the genuine statesman. He can learn even from his opponents. Zulfiqar Bhutto could have saved his life by making a U-turn and bowing down to then-military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, but being a leader, Bhutto knew that he could never surrender, not even in the face of Armageddon.

The same is the case with Nawaz Sharif, who instead of bowing down to the invisible forces decided to fight back. Sharif could have avoided his dismissal from office by remaining submissive to the invisible forces and making a U-turn from his political narrative but he never did that, because he knew he would lose credibility in the eyes of voters.

Perhaps Khan does not realize that credibility is the most important ingredient for leadership success and that by making so many U-turns – and defending them – he has lost credibility. Someone needs to tell him, “No, prime minister, a true statesman, a genuine leader, never makes U-turns.” The U-turns and failure to honor commitments are only expected of mediocre, incompetent, self-proclaimed leaders, not genuine statesmen.

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.

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