Imran Khan: Pakistan's Trump?

Imran Khan, who was sworn in Saturday as Prime Minister of Pakistan, is following in some f...

Posted: Aug 19, 2018 8:44 AM
Updated: Aug 19, 2018 8:44 AM

Imran Khan, who was sworn in Saturday as Prime Minister of Pakistan, is following in some familiar footsteps.

He won't thank anyone for pointing it out, but his brand of hard-nosed nationalist populism smacks of President Trump, notwithstanding the fact that Khan's been at politics way longer, a couple of decades at least.

Afghanistan

Asia

Celebrities

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Elections and campaigns

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Imran Khan (Actor)

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Military

North America

Pakistan

Political Figures - US

Politics

South Asia

Taliban

The Americas

United States

US federal government

White House

Election fraud

Election results

Political corruption

I've seen some of it close up, having followed him on the campaign trail during the country's recent elections.

We flew together on a flimsy helicopter in to the infamous "Swat Valley" in the Hindu Kush mountains into what a few years earlier had been the Pakistani Taliban's heartland.

RELATED: Imran Khan's party wins Pakistan election but falls short of majority

The town was close to where Nobel laureate, then-schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai was shot in the head by the radical extremist Taliban trying to stifle her calls for democracy and equality.

As we got out of the helicopter, Khan quickly jumped in an armored car, we took off at speed, dozens of gun-toting security men crammed onto flat-bed trucks barreling down the road with us.

When we arrived Khan got a rock star welcome: crowds, men and women, young and old going wild waiting to hear from him.

He commanded a huge crowd with ease, his anti-American, anti-Pakistani political establishment message connecting with the tribal, deeply conservative society crammed in to the sport stadium decked out in his party colors: green, red and black.

It was 2013. Bathing in adoration appeared to come naturally to him.

As Trump does today, I saw Khan invigorated by the crowd, pumping them up for victory as they inflated his ego, lifting him towards his goal.

But like the wind-ripped rocky helicopter ride into the remote region that day, his ambitions in the 2013 election were buffeted off course.

He was closing in on the leadership job he craved, could taste victory, enough to mount a four-month challenge accusing the establishment of cheating, rigging voting and the results.

Mega-star legend

It was another sports stadium, another era in Khan's life where his journey on the path to be Prime Minister was really cemented.

In 1992, at the end of a stellar career as one of the most gifted cricketers of his generation, he led Pakistan's national squad to world cup victory, the crowds rose for him as they had for more than two decades.

He was a mega-star legend, lived in London, grew a reputation as a playboy, and became a regular at many of the city's most glamorous nightspots, before joining British high society with his marriage to heiress Jemima Goldsmith.

Fame was his constant shadow; today he eschews the gilded good life he had back then for the principles of his conservative Islamic upbringing. But it was undoubtedly his cricketing poster boy popularity that was his passport into politics.

Like Trump he was born into privilege, and like the US President has never held political office.

His leadership is going to be anyone's guess.

Military: The real power behind Khan?

What won him votes, was an anti-corruption ticket, aiming to take down Pakistan's dueling rival political dynasties, coupled with his long-running anti-US rhetoric.

He has blasted Trump's Afghan policy which accuses Pakistan of not doing enough to fight terrorism, and for more than a decade Khan has escalated anti-US sentiment along the Afghan/Pakistan border, criticized US drone strikes and whipped up lethal fervor over alleged US misdeeds in Afghanistan.

In this election cycle his followers have swelled beyond the cadres of young religiously conservative men he's gathered in the past. Now they include voters simply wanting a change from the stultifying self-serving politicians of Pakistan's two dynastic powerhouses who are widely blamed for having driven the country into an economic hole.

This analysis belies the other force at work in Pakistan's politics though: the military, who may be the real constituency behind Khan's success.

Pakistan's powerful army has been blamed by many journalists for intimidation in the months leading up to the election, particularly of critics of Khan. But the military has never been far from power, has engineered several coups in the country's short seven-decade history, and has a disproportionately large number of business interests inside Pakistan.

In short, Khan won't be his own man. No amount of Khan's popularity will sway them from their core interests, the survival of Pakistan.

The military believes India is an existential threat to their Muslim nation carved out of the bloody collapse of the British Raj.

The two nuclear-armed nations still face off high in the Himalayas on the Siachen glacier, at 21,000 feet above sea level it is the world's highest battlefield, but it is over Pakistan's western border in Afghanistan that today's battles are mostly waged.

Taliban key to Khan's success

In the early 1990s Pakistan's intelligence services backed Afghanistan's Taliban to take complete control of Afghanistan, to give the slender north-south Pakistan "strategic depth" westwards.

Trump's Afghan strategy calls for India to do more in Kabul, a red rag to Pakistan's military, and so where Trump might find common cause with Khan may be with the Taliban.

The US President needs the group to stop fighting and join the Afghan government so he can pull out US troops. Khan, an ethnic Pashtun like many Taliban, has built up his support among Pakistani Taliban loyalists, which could be a conduit to negotiations with the Taliban.

To align all of that will require more than the public threats by Trump to cooperate or else, and will likely need much more than is in Khan's grasp to give -- or for that matter the military's will to offer.

In the short term Khan is going to be consumed by forming a government, tackling a crooked and crumbling economy, dealing with creditors like China, and fighting off allegations of a rigged election from the Pakistan's Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League -- the same two dynasties he's been fighting for decades, the same people he led street protests against claiming the same wrongdoing in 2013.

To borrow from his cricketing legacy, he is going to have to hit a few boundaries before he can turn to Trump's demands, and by all accounts he'll need the military's help to do it.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 309841

Reported Deaths: 3569
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah50840642
Washington34683272
Marion32181388
Clackamas26315270
Lane23632246
Jackson20753255
Deschutes16401100
Umatilla12552125
Douglas10599185
Linn1030285
Josephine8536163
Yamhill737299
Klamath637891
Polk617770
Malheur475867
Benton454027
Coos406469
Columbia320237
Jefferson310446
Lincoln272829
Union266036
Wasco236739
Crook212137
Clatsop210225
Tillamook179623
Baker171920
Morrow166621
Curry166317
Hood River161635
Harney77115
Grant7538
Lake6608
Wallowa50111
Gilliam1364
Sherman1283
Wheeler651
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4636268

Reported Deaths: 67966
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles144412725849
Riverside3575584802
San Diego3492274006
San Bernardino3468955501
Orange3135295354
Sacramento1498662070
Santa Clara1403871841
Fresno1356471889
Kern1343971515
Alameda1160681320
Ventura976231120
San Joaquin971621615
Contra Costa95595924
Stanislaus800341229
Tulare72812896
San Mateo52172607
San Francisco51808605
Monterey49445565
Solano44061312
Santa Barbara43065500
Sonoma39376376
Merced39279535
Placer36390364
Imperial34235755
Kings30038285
San Luis Obispo28273313
Madera21672258
Butte21205230
Shasta20647276
Santa Cruz20134211
Yolo19118239
Marin17080242
El Dorado15964127
Sutter13055153
Napa1224695
Yuba923461
Nevada845685
Humboldt826284
Tehama821184
San Benito708567
Mendocino681971
Lassen636827
Tuolumne612593
Lake601087
Amador489759
Glenn396430
Siskiyou388841
Calaveras339366
Del Norte334234
Colusa290718
Inyo166239
Mono14935
Plumas12336
Mariposa96712
Trinity71910
Modoc6278
Sierra1980
Unassigned1180
Alpine1000
Out of CA00
Medford
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 50°
Brookings
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 64°
Crater Lake
Partly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 50°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 50°
Klamath Falls
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 44°
Dry and mild Monday with good air quality
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events