The lead-up to philanthropist turned politician Imran Khan's election as Pakistan's new Prime Minister generated copious alarming prognostications across international media. These vilifying accounts must be taken with a grain of salt. Rest assured, the sky is not falling in Pakistan. To the contrary, Khan's decisive victory represents a monumental moment in the country's checkered history.
The dominant international narrative, stitched together by self-professed foreign experts such as Indian journalist Burkha Dutt and Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute, followed these lines: the Pakistani election represents a battle between puppets of the Pakistani military establishment, exemplified by the figure of Imran Khan, and champions of democracy such as the recently convicted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The corruption scandals engulfing Sharif, this narrative held, represent the product of a conniving campaign engineered and executed by the military, in cahoots with the judiciary, to punish Sharif for his efforts to mend relations with India.
Dhume, in a recent Wall Street Journal piece, went so far as to say that Khan is "playing a fixed match," and that Sharif had been "railroaded." No doubt, the monstrosities of the Pakistani military, past and present, are indefensible. However, viewing Pakistani politics solely through the lens of a pro/anti-military binary is egregiously reductive. The Panama documents, which exposed Sharif's and his family's off-shore companies and millions of pounds worth of properties in the UK, were not the military's making. The ensuing legal saga that led to the former premiere's jail sentence lasted almost two years.