Foreign media's take on 11th general elections in Pakistan — and 'PM in waiting' Imran Khan

For the past 72 hours, international media has been fixated on Pakistan's 11th general elections.
Published July 27, 2018

For the past 72 hours, international media has been fixated on Pakistan's 11th general elections — and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan who is no stranger to global audience.

Even before polling started, foreign publications zoomed in on the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman, often writing at lengths about his life in the limelight during his time as a cricketer.

"He’s a thrice-married playboy who hangs out with Mick Jagger. But he’s also an Islamist who has kept company with a cleric and spiritual adviser to many in Afghanistan’s Taliban movement," wrote AP News on Wednesday morning, ahead of the elections, with the title 'Ex-cricket star may be on the verge of win in Pakistan'.

The New York Times ran a piece a day before the elections with the headline 'Cricket Star. Sex Symbol. Prime Minister? It May Be Imran Khan’s Time'. "Mr. Khan made a name for himself on the world’s cricket pitches and in London’s nightclubs. But in the two decades since he began striving for higher office in Pakistan, he has undergone a complicated transformation," read the piece, which also touched upon the alleged support extended to the PTI from the military.

In The Independent: From cricketing legend to prime minister of Pakistan, the rise of Imran Khan

The British media, as opposed to its US counterpart, didn't delve as much into Khan's colourful past, having already covered it extensively over the years owing to his marriage to Jemima Goldsmith.

Imran Khan with Jemima at the London's High Court on July 26 1996. ─ File
Imran Khan with Jemima at the London's High Court on July 26 1996. ─ File

In it's editorial ahead of the elections, The Independent compared "the rise of Imran Khan in Pakistan as a sort of counterpart to the En Marche! phenomenon in France that propelled Emmanuel Macron to power".

On the day of the elections, media's focus remained on Imran's chances and the military's alleged involvement in the electoral process, as well as violence including a bomb blast that claimed the lives of more than 30 people in Quetta and cries of fraud by PML-N and other political parties. Most mainstream US, British and Indian television and news websites carried live updates of the elections.

Read Dawn's complete coverage from July 25 here.

The tediously slow pace of vote counting and subsequently, slow sharing of results on the Election Commission of Pakistan's raised questions the electoral process.

"The official results from Wednesday's vote — only the second democratic transition in Pakistan's 71-year history — have not yet been announced.

"But leaders of almost every political party except Khan's have alleged ballot-rigging, with some claiming that monitors did not receive final counts or were asked to leave polling stations before tallying was finished," reported CNN.

Across the border, in India, as PTI inched closer to victory in the centre, media looked at how the new government would affect the relations between the two countries.

In Times of India: Why who becomes Pakistan PM matters to India

The Firstpost called Imran Khan "the worst pick for both Pakistan and India among a field of bad choices".

Hindustan Times, however, lauded PTI’s win as a step ahead in the democratic transition.

"Election 2018 was a big snub to conventional politics, i.e. the status quo which has ruled Pakistan for nearly seven decades, and which Imran Khan has been relentlessly attacking," read the analysis piece.

"He himself eventually compromised this fundamental plank of his policy by coopting the so-called electables into his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), yet this doesn’t seem to have hurt him. Pakistan’s fourth consecutive election demolished old myths, brought down several stalwarts and created new controversies."

In this July 22 photo, a PTI supporter raises a picture of Imran Khan during an election campaign rally in Karachi. ─ File
In this July 22 photo, a PTI supporter raises a picture of Imran Khan during an election campaign rally in Karachi. ─ File

Financial Times struck a similar tone, with the headline 'A victory for Imran Khan offers Pakistan change'.

"His claimed victory in the general election breaks the mould of dynastic politics, offering Pakistan a chance — however slim — for change."

Looking forward, The Guardian in its editorial on Thursday analysed the challenge ahead for Khan. "His party has governed one province. He takes over a country struggling with violence, extremism, poverty and a worsening economic situation, in a fraught international environment; a mightier China, tense relations with the US, India and Afghanistan. Whatever he does will be done within the context of a strengthened military."

As the party is still lacking seats to form majority government, The Washington Post wrote of the compromises Khan might have to make.

"And Khan, whose party needs to win 141 seats to form its own government and guarantee he becomes prime minister, is more likely going to have to navigate the complex waters of compromising and dealmaking with his erstwhile election rivals — possibly even some of those whom the spellbinding orator insulted as “donkeys” in an unguarded moment on the campaign trail."

With PTI still in the lead as results trickled in, an opinion piece in The Independent questioned whether Imran was the popular choice or the only reasonable choice.

'Imran Khan was once seen as a saviour – but in the Pakistan election he was just the least bad option,' read the long headline.

"Much like Pakistan itself, Imran Khan is complex and often contradictory [...] So who is the real Imran Khan? He is often accused of being right wing, but his policies are no more to the right than the PML-N."