Will Imran Khan be a strongman or pragmatist?

The World Today Updated 10 November 2020 Published 3 August 2018 2 minute READ

Omar Waraich

Journalist and human rights campaigner who covered Pakistan for Time magazine from 2008-2016

Is Imran Khan the latest strongman, joining a crowded stage with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Viktor Orban, Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump? Or is he, as one newspaper said, the Pakistani Emmanuel Macron?

In the current age of populist leaders, Khan seems to slot in rather well. As the German political scientist Jan-Werner Müller has said, there are certain traits common to the new breed of strongman leaders. They invariably claim to represent the ‘authentic will’ of people and they see their opposition as inherently illegitimate.

This speaks well to Khan in opposition. Ever since the 2013 elections, Khan relentlessly attacked the government of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who now languishes in prison, convicted of corruption.

Khan claimed that the 2013 elections had been rigged and that the mainstream parties of Sharif and the Bhutto family had manipulated the system in their favour.

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