By Rohit E
July 30, 2018
Farahnaz Ispahani is Global Fellow at
Washington’s Wilson Centre, former member of Pakistani parliament (from
Pakistan People’s Party) and former media adviser to the Pakistani president. She spoke to Rohit E David on
Imran Khan being set to become the new prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz
Sharif’s decision to come back to the country, and the role the military will
continue to have in Pakistani politics:
How will Imran Khan becoming PM change
the scenario in Pakistan?
Imran Khan has won the election amidst the
most serious and blatant charges of election rigging in Pakistan’s political
history. Khan’s arrogant personality and inability to forgive will make it
difficult for him to take the opposition parties along – and with his slim lead
this will create an extremely divided parliament. And, potentially weaken the
ability of the government to make decisions and then implement them. The
scenario in Pakistan is already fraught with tension. Frequent terror attacks
by extremist groups, increasing sectarianism, an economy on the brink of
collapse and Khan’s openly espoused contempt for India and the United States
will lead to an even weaker nation.
Do you feel that Nawaz Sharif’s return
to Pakistan was a blunder?
In retrospect it was ill advised. He was
basing his return on assumptions that failed to occur. I believe Nawaz Sharif
was removed from his post as prime minister unconstitutionally as his
disqualification preceded his trial. At the time of his disqualification, no
court of law had carried out a trial and the Supreme Court acted at the
military’s behest. As for his return, like any other citizen of Pakistan he had
the right to come home and participate in the democratic process. Sharif also
has millions of supporters who he thought needed his presence to lead the
How will Pakistan’s relation with India
change with Khan as PM?
Imran Khan was brought to power by the
establishment. Military, intelligence agencies, judiciary and the election
commission of Pakistan. I believe, the military, his biggest benefactor, will
make him toe the line with India. And, if Khan tries to act in a more open
manner with India he will feel the power of the boot very quickly. In any case
statements made by him and his party members in the past and present indicate
there is contempt among PTI leaders regarding Pakistan’s largest neighbour.
Will Pakistani army have a larger say in
the daily working of parliament?
Pakistan army worked very hard to get Khan
elected. And, did so in a very obvious manner. Therefore, they will expect him
to be grateful and continue to follow their lead vis-a-vis India and the United
States – and leave all the foreign, defence and economic policy decisions in
Has Pakistan rejected hard-line Islamist
Pakistan’s hard-line Islamist parties do
not usually do very well at the ballot box. Khan’s nickname of ‘Taliban Khan’
and his support of the blasphemy law indicates that he will, if not
out-rightly, support the Islamist parties. Because he shares some of their
beliefs he may want to work with them as prime minister. In his first address
to the nation Imran Khan sounded positive and statesmanlike regarding better
ties with India and the United States but he has often gone back on previous
statements. In any case, even if we grant him the best will in the world, most
of his speech will not be acted upon. The military establishment will ensure
Is it the end of the road for Bilawal
Bilawal Bhutto ran the PPP election
campaign this cycle and he retained the home base of Sindh province. He has
also contested and won his first seat in the National Assembly of Pakistan.
Most analysts have said Mr Bhutto-Zardari conducted himself with maturity at
the young age of 29. The real question is whether the PPP will remain the
regional party his father Asif Zardari has made it – or could it become a
federal/national party again? Too soon to say.
Election authorities had granted
military officers broad powers inside polling centres. Do you feel the
elections were rigged?
Yes. I do believe the elections were
rigged. Openly and blatantly. Every major opposition party has commented on it
including former Punjab chief minister (and Nawaz Sharif’s brother) Shehbaz
Sharif. The election was marred by allegations of military meddling and
pre-poll rigging. Pakistan’s military, intelligence services, judiciary, and
the election commission have interfered directly in the past as well. The
‘establishment’ as Pakistanis refer to it has created political alliances and
propped up politicians throughout Pakistan’s political history. But this time,
all pretence was abandoned.
Pre-poll rigging was carried out through
media censorship, the targeted disqualifications of leading politicians, and
the mainstreaming of terrorists. Election Day continued with even more flagrant
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are
the author's own.