NEW YORK: A major American newspaper on Saturday hailed Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan’s victory in the elections, saying that “any degree of (his) success would benefit not only the Pakistanis, but also their neighbours, creditors and the United States”.

In its editorial titled ‘A New Batsman for Pakistan’, the newspaper said: “In a country as corrupt and troubled as Pakistan, a new, charismatic leader is bound to raise hopes; whether Mr Khan can deliver is a far different question.”

It observed “Pakistan’s woes are many and grave. Corruption runs deep — the last elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was imprisoned two weeks ago. The national debt is ballooning, the electricity grid is disintegrating and jobs are so scarce that Pakistani workers are compelled to fan out across the Middle East to take whatever work they can find. On top of that, terrorists strike often, relations with the United States are bad and politics are chronically unstable, with a tradition of military meddling.”

Reflecting on Mr Khan’s ambitious agenda, the newspaper said “how far Mr Khan can go in changing Pakistan’s political culture, helping the poor and fixing foreign relations will depend on many factors, including what coalition he cobbles together, how much leeway the military allows him and how he manages a rapidly swelling debt. It will depend, too, on himself: Though indisputably charming and charismatic, he is also known for erratic behaviour.”

The newspaper noted: “Imran Khan, cricket-star-turned-politician, promises a new path for Pakistan but his (Imran Khan’s) ties to the military, and his own at-times erratic behaviour, may stand in the cricketer who led Pakistan to a glorious World Cup victory over its former colonial ruler, England, a quarter century ago, led his political party to an equally impressive victory in Pakistan’s national elections this week.”

The newspaper underscored “Mr Khan’s victory is not free of taint. The powerful military and intelligence services threw their considerable and subsisted two decades ago and entered politics. Now projecting a devout Muslim image, he pledges to create an Islamic welfare state to raise up the poor.”

“In foreign affairs, Mr Khan said he would seek to improve relations with the United States, whose policies in the region he has fiercely criticised.”

US President Donald Trump has cut millions of dollars in foreign aid to Pakistan over charges that Pakistan gave safe haven to Afghan terrorists and “have given us nothing but lies & deceit,” as the president put it in a tweet in January.

Mr Khan also pledged to seek an end to the territorial dispute with India over Kashmir, which has long set the neighbours at loggerheads, and to improve relations with China, Pakistan’s major creditor.

“It would be wise for the Trump administration, as well as for India and China, to do what they can to ease Mr Khan’s way,” the newspaper asserted.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2018