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'From a politician to a statesman' — analysts react to Imran's victory speech with cautious optimism

Updated July 26, 2018

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People listen to the speech of PTI chief Imran Khan, telecasting on news channels at a shop in Islamabad. — AP
People listen to the speech of PTI chief Imran Khan, telecasting on news channels at a shop in Islamabad. — AP

Analysts reacted to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan's speech, in which he declared victory for his party in the 2018 general elections, with overwhelmingly positive feedback, while stressing at the same time that it was yet to be seen whether he will actually "walk the talk".

A visibly calm Khan cut a conciliatory tone in a wide-ranging television address to the nation following a controversial contest hit by accusations from major political parties of poll rigging and long delays in still unreleased official results.

Watch Imran Khan's complete address here.

Journalists and analysts noted and appreciated the PTI chief's toned-down language during the speech they said was inclusive and fit for a statesman. Others cautioned that while victory speeches are easy to deliver, they are "harder to implement".

During the broadcast, Khan vowed to tackle corruption that was “eating our country like a cancer” and touched on promises to balance relations with the US that would be “beneficial” for both countries. Khan also said he was open to a sit-down with India to discuss the Kashmir issue.

'Humble but impressive'

Journalist Hamid Mir said Khan had delivered a "very humble but impressive victory speech" and that it remained to be seen how he would act if he becomes the prime minister.

TV journalist Maria Memon said Khan's speech showed that he has "graduated from a politician to a statesman".

Journalist Mubashir Zaidi found it notable that the PTI chief had promised his future government's cooperation in investigating allegations of rigging.

Columnist Umair Javed thought Khan's speech today had the "best content" in all of his political career.

DawnNewsTV anchorperson Meher Bokhari said she would like to see Khan deliver on the promises he made in the "heartfelt" speech, such as "feeling embarrassed to live in a palatial PM House in a poverty-stricken country".

'Speech by PM-in-waiting, not PTI chief'

Columnist Wusutullah Khan appreciated that Khan's speech was nearly all extempore, likening it to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's "natural" speech of December 1971.

"This was not a speech by the Tehreek-i-Insaf chief, it was the speech of the Imran Khan Niazi who is set to become the prime minister," he said.

Wusutullah said while he would wait and see how much Khan is able to implement his promises, he would give the PTI chief 90/100 marks for his intentions alone.

Journalist Arifa Noor observed that Khan appeared to have addressed the reservations against him by suggesting that his future government would maintain continuity in the foreign policy.

Whenever the PTI chief talked of establishing trade ties with India — something which tends to ruffle the feathers in the establishment — "he immediately balanced it off by mentioning the Kashmir issue", she observed.

'Little practical value'

Journalist and activist Marvi Sirmed was more wary of Khan's speech, saying many points in it were "based on manufactured populism, and have little practical value".

"Still this was a pretty good speech if he really means what he said," she added.

‏Activist and columnist Usama Khilji said the public needed to keep a lookout for the performance of Khan's future government on various issues, including protection of freedom of speech and minorities and women's rights.

Anchor Shahzeb Khanzada termed Khan's address "positive" but said that victory speeches are usually harder to implement than to utter.

Journalist Iftikhar Firdous reminded his followers that while Khan has promised to turn the Prime Minister House into an educational institution or some other public institution, he had failed to deliver on his vow to turn the Chief Minister House in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into a public library.

'Heavy hitting' on foreign policy

Analysts noted the bold statements made by Khan on the foreign policy front.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a columnist and former adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gave a thumbs up to Khan for saying that it is in the Pakistani national interest and the betterment of South Asia to have friendly ties between India and Pakistan.

Writer Ahmer Naqvi also noted the PTI chief's ambitious foreign policy promises including wanting to have open borders with Afghanistan and a thriving trade with India.