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Imran Khan Isolates Himself Over Drones


Despite a largely successful protest that drew thousands in the northwestern regional capital of Peshawar, Imran Khan and his party, the PTI, are becoming increasingly isolated. Khan’s insistence on the cessation of American drone strikes as the cornerstone of his domestic policy is alienating all sections of Pakistan’s political establishment, including his allies. JUI-F, a right-wing religious party that explicitly shares the same policy on drone strikes and distaste for American interference in the region, called the protest in Peshawar a “drama” distracting people from the real issues facing the country. The Information Ministry has criticized Khan for sabotaging Pakistan’s foreign relations with America.

Despite galvanizing popular support, the truth is that there is very little that Khan can do. He has called for a halt to the NATO supplies that travel through Pakistan to ISAF forces in Afghanistan until America stops its drone strikes. The Pakistani government has flatly refused to take such action, and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government, which Khan’s party runs, has no jurisdiction over borders. It was ironic, then, that no member from the provincial government, which is controlled by Khan’s party, attended Khan’s rally, despite being PTI members. His protest, then, was merely symbolic, as government policy shows no sign of changing.

A scathing editorial in Dawn, Pakistan’s largest English-language newspaper, said, “It has almost reached the point where, if it could, the PTI would drag a drone into court, put it on trial before a PTI judge and prosecutor and possibly a jury made up of the Taliban, and then, in full glare of the cameras, flog the drone for its sins against Pakistan’s militants.”

At the same time, Khan is apparently ignoring Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s many problems while he devotes all his political capital to the anti-drone crusade. The province has an anemic economy and has suffered greatly from militancy. The New York Times reports: “At a market near the protest, some merchants said political leaders should focus on economic issues. ‘The provincial government has done nothing so far for the welfare of common people,’ said Ajmal Khan, a shopkeeper.”

[Imran Khan photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • AD_Rtr_OS

    Nothing much seems to have changed in the North-West Frontier in the intervening 50-years since I was there, except the names and faces of those who would exploit this poor country.

    • Andrew Allison

      It’s clear that Khan is an utterly unscrupulous opportunist. The question is whether Pakistan will buy the PTI snake oil. On the other hand, unlike most Pakistani leaders, he’s at least fairly forthright about his complete lack of principle.

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