Imran Khan’s Multipolar Legacy Can’t Ever Be Fully Dismantled
It’s difficult to predict what’ll happen next in Pakistan, a country that’s always been characterized by political intrigue and sudden radical changes that oftentimes catch many off guard, but it’s clear that Imran Khan’s multipolar legacy can’t ever be fully dismantled. For however imperfect his premiership was, there’s no denying that it was immensely impactful in terms of reshaping perceptions at home and abroad, including through its multipolar National Security Policy.
The success of the US-orchestrated regime change operation in Pakistan has prompted concern that the pro-US school of thought within that country’s Establishment will attempt to dismantle some of the achievements of their multipolar peers under the government of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. While it remains to be seen whether any attempts are undertaken in that direction, there’s no doubt that it’s impossible to ever fully dismantle his multipolar legacy. That’s because the formerly ruling PTI has since become a genuinely multipolar movement that clearly articulates this promising worldview to the masses unlike its competitors which lack any coherent worldview (if even one at all apart from being pro-US). This development will have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan’s domestic political future.
Although the country’s relations with Russia began to improve under different governments, it was only under PTI that they became strategic after obtaining meaningful substance through close cooperation on Afghanistan, the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP), and PAKAFUZ. In fact, it was precisely because of the former Prime Minister’s trip to Moscow in late February against the reported wishes of the US that the declining unipolar hegemon set into motion its de facto “lawfare” coup against him by exploiting preexisting political differences within the country as well as its constitutional process to overthrow him as punishment. This means that his government’s foreign policy achievements with that Eurasian Great Power will always be inextricably connected with former Prime Minister Khan’s legacy.
While that might forever remain the most dramatic foreign policy aspect of his tenure for obvious reasons related to the scandalous way in which his premiership ended, it wasn’t the only multipolar achievement under his belt. Of similar importance was his brave refusal to host US bases following America’s chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan last August and thus sacrifice what he sincerely regarded as his country’s objective national interests. Former Prime Minister Khan also defied US-led Western pressure by unforgettably asking those nearly two dozen European Ambassadors in Islamabad who broke diplomatic protocol by demanding that he publicly condemn Russia “Are we your slaves?” This easily understandable message represented the pro-sovereignty vision that defined his time in office.
Not only that, but he also did more than any Pakistani leader before him to draw global attention to his country’s position towards the unresolved Kashmir Conflict, with his 2019 speech at the UN General Assembly a little over one month after New Delhi’s unilateral abrogation of Article 370 being regarded as one of the hallmarks of his premiership. There’s no doubt that global perceptions about India began to gradually change for the worse as a result of him placing Kashmir front and centre in terms of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Seeing as how patriotic that issue is for average Pakistanis, he can be said to have galvanized the masses under his leadership, which helps explain his immense popularity and that of his party.
The same can be said about the passion with which he pursued his anti-Islamophobia campaign too. Former Prime Minister Khan didn’t tolerate any disrespect being displayed towards the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) or his believers anywhere in the world. This became just as globally associated with his premiership as his support for Kashmir. Even though neither achieved much in terms of tangible substance, they were highly symbolic and pursued with indisputable sincerity due to the strength of his personal convictions. They rallied the masses and generated a lot of positive attention across the world for Pakistan. These campaigns also served to inspire average Pakistanis to feel very proud of their country.
It also deserves mentioning that it was under former Prime Minister Khan that Pakistan finally promulgated its first-ever National Security Policy in January. This document can objectively be described as articulating a genuinely multipolar vision through its prohibition of bloc politics and its focus on geo-economics instead of geopolitics. This double break with the past was brought about by the multipolar school of his country’s Establishment supporting these policies in contrast to the presumably different vision supported by their pro-US peers. Despite this multipolar leader’s departure from office, it’s expected that those within The Establishment who share his worldview and helped implement it into policy will do their utmost to retain this multipolar vision.
These observations explain why rallies were held in his support nationwide on Sunday, the day after he was ousted from office and just before the new government will be announced on Monday. Unlike PMLN and PPP, the country’s two other largest parties that united to depose him, PTI isn’t regarded as a regional party. It also has a reputation for anti-corruption, which sets it apart from those two who’ve been plagued by perceptions of being corrupt to the core. They’re also considered by many to represent the past system of governance that many blame for Pakistan’s enduring problems that not even former Prime Minister Khan was able to fix despite trying his best over the past few years in office. Another important observation is that large segments of the youth and intelligentsia support the former premier.
This is because he convincingly articulated his vision for “Naya (New) Pakistan” and took some tangible steps to implement it into practice, both in terms of the powerful messaging associated with his pro-Kashmir and anti-Islamophobia campaigns as well as the achievements connected with the rapid rapprochement with Russia that he oversaw. The National Security Policy’s geo-economic vision and prohibition of bloc politics filled Pakistanis with hope that their country was finally changing for the better with the times. Many people despise how their formal American ally took advantage of them throughout the course of the “Global War On Terror” so they saw former Prime Minister Khan’s policies as a pro-Pakistani alternative to the pro-US policies of his predecessors that caused so much suffering.
Standing up to the US wasn’t considered “anti-American” but pro-Pakistani, or put more simply, as a long-overdue expression of self-respect and sovereignty that these proud people yearned for decades to see their leaders publicly display. Their former premier’s famous declaration of “absolutely not” in response to a question about hosting US bases filled them with pride since he did that which no prior leader was ever able to do even though it ultimately contributed to costing him his position. Try as the pro-US school of The Establishment might, it cannot remove the impression from many Pakistanis’ hearts that Imran Khan truly represented the “Naya Pakistan” that they felt that they finally deserved to experience in their lifetime while the US-backed opposition represents a return to the shameful past.
Perceptions are reality, as some have provocatively claimed, and they’re also a powerful mobilizing force as proven by the nationwide rallies in the former Prime Minister’s support on Sunday. His PTI began as an anti-corruption movement that morphed into a genuinely multipolar one that impressively raised the population’s political and class consciousness, including their awareness of foreign affairs and the importance of a balanced approach to the ongoing global systemic transition towards multipolarity. For these reasons, one can somewhat describe his premiership as “revolutionary” because of the socio-political changes that it unleashed among the masses. It’s also quite an achievement that he united large segments of the intelligentsia behind him too as well as many overseas Pakistanis.
It’s difficult to predict what’ll happen next in Pakistan, a country that’s always been characterized by political intrigue and sudden radical changes that oftentimes catch many off guard, but it’s clear that Imran Khan’s multipolar legacy can’t ever be fully dismantled. He left his mark on his people, who are now inspired by the example that he made during his time in office, especially with respect to restoring their pride and the world’s respect for their country. For however imperfect his premiership was, there’s no denying that it was immensely impactful in terms of reshaping perceptions at home and abroad, including through its multipolar National Security Policy. This is a reality that The Establishment’s pro-US school and the US-backed opposition can’t erase from the public’s consciousness and are thus forced to accept.