“His (Imran Khan’s) main call is to reform Pakistan’s woeful governance and put an end to the patronage networks that have facilitated widespread graft,” the New York Times said in its main editorial: ‘A New Batsman for Pakistan’.
“In a country as corrupt and troubled as Pakistan, a new, charismatic leader is bound to raise hopes; whether Mr Khan can deliver is a far different question,” the Times said.
It added, “Imran Khan, the cricketer who led Pakistan to a glorious World Cup victory over its former colonial ruler, England, a quarter century ago, led his political party to an equally impressive victory in Pakistan’s national elections this week.”
Noting that Pakistan’s woes were many and grave, it said that corruption runs deep as the last prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was imprisoned two weeks ago. “The national debt is ballooning; the electricity grid is disintegrating and jobs are so scarce that Pakistani workers are compelled to fan out across the Middle East to take whatever work they can find. “On top of that, terrorists strike often, relations with the United States are bad and politics are chronically unstable …”, the editorial added.
Although his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party did not win enough seats in parliament to form a government alone, the Times said, it “still scored big not only in the national parliament but also in regional races across the country, a rare feat in Pakistani politics, giving Mr Khan, 65, considerable leverage to pursue his goals. Those (tasks) he listed in his victory address were a catalogue of what urgently needs to be done.”
In foreign affairs, the paper noted Imran Khan’s desire to seek to improved relations with the US, whose policies in the region he has fiercely criticised. “Mr Khan also pledged to seek an end to the territorial dispute with India over Kashmir, which has long set the neighbours at loggerheads, and to further improve relations with China, Pakistan’s major creditor”.
“How far Mr Khan can go in changing Pakistan’s political culture, helping the poor and fixing foreign relations will depend on many factors, including what coalition he cobbles together and how he manages a rapidly swelling debt,” it added.
Calling him “indisputably charming and charismatic”, the editorial said, “In the end, Mr Khan offers a chance of change, however remote, for a country in dire need of it”.
“Any degree of success would benefit not only the Pakistanis, but also their neighbours and creditors, and the US, which, for better or for worse, is tied to Pakistan in its struggle “against extremism”. It would be wise for the Trump administration, as well as for India and China, to do what they can to ease Mr Khan’s way,” the newspaper concluded.