Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is not one to shy away from a challenge. A reoccurring theme in his public life has been to lead a team of underdogs to success.
He did it in 1992 when he led the Pakistani national cricket team to a World Cup victory.
And he did it again years later when he established a network of cancer hospitals throughout the country after his mother succumbed to the disease.
As a sportsman and as a philanthropist, Imran Khan’s record has been a resounding success.
His political career, however, has been a mixed bag. For almost two decades, he was stuck in the political wilderness as his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf or PTI, failed to gain more than a single seat in parliament.
But today, he leads a country of over 200 million people. And it’s a challenge unlike any other he’s faced before in his life. He’s pledged to build nothing short of a “Naya” or “New” Pakistan, where government spending is directed at human development, not the country’s rapacious elite. A country where the wealthy and the powerful are held accountable. And a country where the poor are afforded the primary health, education, and social services they deserve.
But the economy he inherited upon coming into office last August is deeply troubled. Pakistan is in the midst of a balance of payments crisis. And despite aid from friendly countries, it is in need of another International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. And while the IMF will give Pakistan a temporary pathway out of its balance of payments crisis, the austerity measures that will come along with its inflows will usher in yet another period of slow growth and high inflation.
The 66-year-old ex-cricketer has a great challenge before him. In a time of austerity, he must somehow fuel economic growth and human development, with meager resources.
Is he up to the task? Can he lead his team of underdogs to victory again? Can his government survive, let alone put the country on the path of becoming a New Pakistan?
- Mosharraf Zaidi, columnist, The News
- Salman Masood, Pakistan correspondent, The New York Times
Arif Rafiq, “The Imran Khan Phenomenon,” Foreign Policy, January 12, 2012
Salman Masood, “Imran Khan Calls for Vast Anti-Poverty Plan, but Money Is Tight,” The New York Times, March 28, 2019
Mosharraf Zaidi, “Can Imran Khan Save Pakistan?” The New York Times, August 17, 2018.
Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.
He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.