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Can Imran Khan create a new Pakistan?



Four years ago, on the day that Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister, I wrote that India is entering its most ominous phase since independence. This was a reasonable fear for anyone who had noted Modi's unwavering commitment to Hindu domination and the fragile state of the Indian economy. Today, as Modi does not create jobs or eliminate corruption, his government has fueled violence against minorities and various "anti-nationals." As Imran Khan prepares to become Pakistan's new prime minister, it is not unfounded to fear that South Asia is staggering into its most turbulent phase since 1

947.

It is true that Khan, unlike Modi, has no corrupt government experience. Since his childhood he has hit the drums for a far-right ideology. He entered politics in his 40s following a career in sports and philanthropy; and unlike Modi, he was known as a playboy of the western world.

This broad experience – of the bourgeois Lahore and plutocratic London, of piety and of hedonism – could make one take advantage of doubt, and credit him with ideological flexibility rather than fanaticism. In fact, Khan's often outspoken commitment to social justice is admirable in a society that routinely desecrates this ideal. But while waiting impatiently in the power room, he has manifested some disturbing tendencies.

Personality traits are barely trivial in politics, as Donald Trump revealed in his groundbreaking performance as the most powerful man in the world. In the case of Khan, another unproven outsider in mainstream politics, they are a crucial clue as to how he will find his way in office.

It has long been clear that he has a trump-sized ego, success in sports and mild erotic conquests helped build. In the 1990s he entered politics with a customary claim for the political dynasties he despised, and a series of setbacks seemed to cement his certainty that political power in Pakistan was his birthright.

Convinced that he is the divinely ordained agent of Pakistan's transformation, Khan has cut a raging swathe through the fragile democratic institutions of his country in recent years. He has mixed Pakistani politics with a hysterically antagonistic tone that has already reduced decades of coups and assassinations to a zero-sum affair. For someone who claimed to be revolutionary and destroy the Pakistani dynastic elites, he seemed overly eager to do business with the ancien regime – with his sleazy politicians, dedicated fundamentalists, sinister spies, and megalomaniac army officers.

Khan has called himself a "true liberal" – in contrast to those he calls "West-anoxic" liberals – and has vigorously defended Pakistan's draconian anti-blasphemy law. He has also done little to prevent members of his personality cult from virulently attacking his critics, especially women and Western anoxic liberals, on social media.


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