Imran Khan campaigning in Lahore’s NA-122 constituency on Oct. 4, 2015. Arif Ali—AFP
Big Business is set to suffer more from the politics of righteous rage.
Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party polled the second largest number of votes in the 2013 general elections, is planning to launch another protest campaign. He spent some four months staging Pakistan’s longest and largest sit-in in 2014, which didn’t topple the Sharif government but destabilized the country and jolted many state institutions unable to defend themselves against violent protesters.
It seems this time around—Khan had predicted that 2016 would be Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s last year in power—Pakistan is in for more wobbly days. The campaign will get immense moral support from the current worldwide battle against the offshore companies storing ill-gotten wealth fleeing state taxation. Anger and the tough language used by the protesting masses in the more organized West will lend legitimacy to the violent vocabulary of the New Pakistan that Khan is demanding.
Pakistan can hardly take more instability in these days of a general global economic downturn. Khan’s promise of “punishment” to all who have unloaded mountains of per-capita debt on the people through their corrupt practices sends the wrong message to domestic and foreign investors. The Sharif Empire will surely be dismantled if Khan comes to power in Islamabad. Pakistan, whose big business is already suffering from various forms of shady punitive action, stands to suffer yet again. Unfortunately, like always, it will be suffering imposed by the righteous trying to usher in utopia.
Pakistan’s history is nothing but a series of such “noble” actions. Three Constitutions were imposed and rejected for the sake of “correction”; and the epochal war—declared and covert—with India undermined Pakistan’s internal security by empowering sections of society favoring hate-based international isolation.
Are we in for another bout of “correction”? The fury informing the speeches of our parliamentarians today will be the yardstick of political judgment in the coming days. People will ask: have you destroyed enough of the infrastructure of corruption to justify your coming to power? Needless to say, “moral destruction” will not be followed by much-needed economic development. The world is already worried about “nuclear” Pakistan, isolated in the region and inspiring fear at the global level.