Imran Khan’s imprisonment and Pakistan’s never-ending turmoil

Saturday, 12 August 2023 00:00 –      – 18

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Cricket fans all over the world would have felt a sense of grief and shock over the imprisonment of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for three years after a court in Islamabad found him guilty of graft. The conviction also bans Imran from political office for the next five years. Imran’s popularity transcends beyond Pakistan, and he is an international celebrity due to his impressive achievements in cricket.

Imran became a heroic figure in Pakistan when he led his nation to the 1992 World Cup triumph. The illustrious former cricket star commands a huge following around the globe due to his multifaceted personality. Imran is not just another cricketer. He is a graduate in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford University. When almost every Pakistani cricketer who played in the ’80s and ’90s was tainted with allegations of match fixing, Imran was one of the few cricketers from Pakistan whose reputation was not tarnished by such accusations. His stature as a human being grew in leaps and bounds when he established the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in 1994 in memory of his late mother who died due to cancer in 1985. The hospital offers treatments to cancer patients in Pakistan who cannot access expensive healthcare facilities.

It is ironic that Imran has been found guilty of corruption when he was recognised as the symbol of financial purity in a country whose political class is synonymous for unbridled bribery and corruption. The Pakistan Teherek-e-Insaf (PTI) – the political party that was formed by him in 1996 – offered a strong challenge to the two mainstream political parties in Pakistan – Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML) – that are dominated by dynasties. The PPP has always been led by the Bhutto-Zardari family while the PML, for a considerable period of time, has been headed by the Sharif family.

It may be recalled that Imran visited Sri Lanka in February 2021 when he was Prime Minister, and he was given a grand welcome by then Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration. It was also after his visit, that the Rajapaksa government lifted the baseless ban on burial of COVID-19 victims – which caused an immense emotional trauma to the nation’s Muslim community.

When Imran was arrested last May, violent clashes erupted between his supporters and the military, causing so much of mayhem, and even the country’s mobile data services were suspended. Pakistan regularly dominates the international news headlines for a terrorist attack, political unrest, IMF bailout, etc. It is a pity that this South Asian nation, one of the strongest allies of Sri Lanka, moves from one crisis to another at regular intervals with no sanity on the horizon. Unfortunately, most of the troubles in Pakistan are self-inflicted. For the last 75 years, Pakistan has gone to the IMF for bailouts on 23 occasions. According to a World Bank report released in April, Pakistan’s poverty rate is expected to reach 37.2% this year. Such unfavourable living conditions in a country armed with nuclear weapons do not augur well for the security of the South Asian region and the world at large. The radical elements and terrorist outfits prevalent in Pakistan could exploit the precarious circumstances to cause chaos and anarchy.

Sri Lanka, over the years, has enjoyed an extremely cordial relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan has always offered us assistance and support in our times of need. Similarly, Sri Lanka too has reciprocated the generosity of Pakistan.

It was reported recently that Pakistani Premier Shehbaz Sharif had thanked Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe for supporting and helping Pakistan to reach an agreement with the IMF. All Sri Lankans should hope that Pakistan would recover from their present woes and regain their standing as an important nation in South Asia.

 

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