Imran Khan is widely seen as the choice of the powerful Pakistan Army and ISI among the major contenders for the post of PM in these elections.
New Delhi: In what could be a major worry for India, charismatic Pakistani politician and former cricket captain Imran Khan has emerged as a front-runner for the post of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, with his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) securing a clear lead — till late on Wednesday evening — in 94 seats out of 230 so far out of the 272 seats in the Pakistan National Assembly that are filled by direct elections. Mr Khan is widely seen as the choice of the powerful Pakistan Army and ISI among the major contenders for the post of PM in these elections.
Even as Mr Khan’s party surged ahead, TV channels were broadcasting footage of him accusing India of trying to “weaken” the Pakistan Army and tarnish its image.
Mr Khan was also heard accusing former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif of working for Indian interests. Mr Khan and his political party were widely tipped as the front-runner in the run-up to the polls. Mr Khan, who is also seen to be the choice of Pakistan’s religious fundamentalists and also terrorists like Hafiz Saeed, is likely to be under pressure to adopt a strident position against India that will please the Pakistan Army and ISI that control Islamabad’s India policy. At the same time, Mr Khan — who has visited India several times — may offer to re-start talks with India in the flush of electoral victory. It could be a political test of the charismatic former Pakistan cricket captain’s leadership skills, given that the Pakistan Army would want to be in the driver’s seat.
Already there is speculation that Mr Khan’s possible dependence on smaller parties for a majority in the National Assembly could prove to be of advantage to the Pakistan Army as a lever to wield its influence from behind-the-scenes. Mr Khan has the reputation of being a headstrong politician and the Generals could be uncomfortable with him having any brute majority in the Pakistan National Assembly.
The Pakistan Army has been seen to be opposed to Nawaz Sharif and his PML-(N) since Mr Sharif had refused to kow-tow to the Army or bow down to its pressure. The Generals at Rawalpindi will therefore be pleased with the election leads so far that has the PTI comfortably ahead but short of a majority.