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Business News/ News / World/  Game has just begun: Will Imran Khan return to pole position in politically volatile Pakistan — experts weigh in
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Game has just begun: Will Imran Khan return to pole position in politically volatile Pakistan — experts weigh in

Although backed by the strong Army establishment of Pakistan, the new government is hanging on a thin thread of coalition politics and a curveball of misfortune for former prime minister Imran Khan.

An undated photo of former prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. (PTI)Premium
An undated photo of former prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. (PTI)

Shehbaz Sharif's second term as the Prime Minister of Pakistan didn't come as easy as expected amid allegations of rigging in the elections. Although backed by the strong Army establishment of Pakistan, the new government is hanging on a thin thread of coalition politics and a curveball of misfortune for former prime minister Imran Khan. But, is this the endgame for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supremo? The long history of the Southeast Asian nation suggests a clear ‘NO.’

Pakistan general elections 2024 gave only one clear signal - despite languishing in prison on serious charges, Imran Khan enjoys a wide influence over the citizens of the country. The powerful Army establishment in Pakistan will attempt to keep his popularity in check, but it remains to be seen for how long they can hold him off.

Well, just don't take our word for it. LiveMint spoke with various international observers on the subject and almost all were unanimous in their opinion that Imran Khan's popularity will haunt the Army and the new government in Pakistan for a while.

‘Game has just begun for Imran Khan’

Professor Harsh V. Pant, Vice President–Studies and Foreign Policy at Observer Research Foundation, believes that the game has just begun for Imran Khan. He describes the shaky foundations of the new government of Pakistan and how Imran Khan will use his charisma to remain relevant in the country's political space.

“I seriously don't think it is game over for Imran Khan or the PTI; perhaps it's the other way around and the game has just started as now Pakistan has a government which is weak and shaky to the length that nobody wanted to be the prime minister. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) decision to support the government from the outside simply means that the chaos in Pakistan will continue and despite being in prison, Imran Khan will use his charisma and ability to mobilise supporters to protest against the new government and the military establishment. This all makes Imran Khan a very important factor in the political evolution of Pakistan from here on," Pant said.

The Nawaz Sharif example

Dr Rishi Gupta, Research Fellow, Asia Society Policy Institute vouches for a wait-and-watch mode for Imran Khan. He said that a change in military leadership can work well for the PTI chief and it is just a matter of who concedes first.

“Despite the challenges and controversies surrounding his tenure, Imran Khan has shown elasticity and a knack for political resurgence. His past experiences, both in opposition and in power, indicate a propensity for comebacks," Gupta said.

“A change in the army leadership may mark a change in their approach towards Imran Khan. It is also a wait-and-watch-like situation before Imran Khan makes a comeback because the newly formed government of Shehbaz Sharif is no guarantee of political and economic stability in Pakistan. Secondly, the establishment would need a face in case things go wrong with the current coalition, and Imran Khan may well be put to use then. It’s a matter of who concedes first, the army or Imran Khan," he added.

Moreover, Gupta drew parallels between Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. “No one thought Nawaz Sharif would ever be back in Pakistan, but he is back. The Army brought him back because he suited their current needs. It will not be surprising if the Army brings Imran Khan back," he observed.

Imran Khan's fate hangs in the balance

Dr Martand Jha, Doctoral Fellow at Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University pointed out that the new Pakistan government is built on very shaky grounds and even a small turmoil can bring Imran Khan back in the play.

“As they say, even a week is a long time in politics. The instability in Pakistan is a norm. So, in such a situation things can completely turn around for Imran Khan. PTI has emerged as the single largest party and the coalition that currently formed government in Pakistan is on shaky grounds. Any small turmoil can easily put PTI in a pole position to come back to power. Till then, Imran Khan's fate is hanging in the balance," Jha said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Devesh Kumar
I cover politics, geo-politics, economy, and technology and have keen interest in understanding and analyzing the complex issues that shape our world. I am committed to delivering well-researched, balanced, and thought-provoking stories that provides insights into the key trends and developments.
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Published: 05 Mar 2024, 06:06 AM IST
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