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Why did Imran Khan fail?

Imran Khan’s background as a superstar cricketer and a philanthropist surely made him really popular but being a competitor at the highest level of a sport can adversely affect your decision-making because you are naturally forced to think that proactive practices of the same agenda and the same mindset will lead to success.

In politics, especially as a prime minister, you must work on bringing people from both ends of the political process together. As prime minister, Imran Khan never respected or acknowledged the role of the opposition. He closed all doors of legislative negotiation and kept pushing for draconian victimization of his opposition. He got caught up in the competition and forgot about his performance. Every word you utter is a policy of the country, but Imran Khan’s constant desire to just be a winner and an aggressive leader forced him out of negotiations in a lot of key legislative processes, and he had to work with Farogh Naseem to use presidential ordinances to run Pakistan. He was practically a dictator and not a leader of parliament for his 3.5 years in power. In the game of parliamentary politics, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir’s success didn’t come from vicious victimization of others but from becoming national leaders and choices for the entire country. Imran played the game wrong and pushed himself into a very difficult spot.

The second reason for Imran Khan’s failure was his competence. Nawaz Sharif started as a finance minister of Punjab and was under the guidance of General Gilani’s government. He spent time in the Punjab Assembly and moved up to become the chief minister of Punjab first, where he started the politics of development and learned how to run the country, which ultimately made him a prime ministerial contender and prime minister thrice. Imran Khan kept pushing to become Pakistan’s prime minister from 1996 to 2018 and stayed out of the legislature due to his vociferous denial of acknowledgement of the system of parliamentary democracy.

To become a good prime minister, you must be an avid reader and a good foreign policy, economics, and administrative generalist. A lot of politicians are avid readers of local and international newspapers and are aware of almost everything that is going on. Being articulate on all areas of the country and being aware of the country’s issues should be a very basic pre-qualification for the leader of the house. Imran Khan’s foreign policy speeches sounded elitist. His two-pronged policy of building aggression towards the US coupled with his foreign affairs team’s back-channel begging for a call from the US President showed that he had no idea of foreign policy. He didn’t engage the Saudis or Emiratis in bringing the US to the table. His national security adviser isolated Pakistan in the Afghanistan withdrawal situation. It was a golden opportunity for Pakistan to portray itself as a key ally to the US in the war on terror and a partner in Afghanistan’s peacekeeping process.

Imran’s economic team’s delay in going to the IMF and halting CPEC created an economic crisis in Pakistan. Hiring Reza Baqir despite Reza’s catastrophic performance in Egypt was also a very incompetent decision. In the last three decades, Reza’s monetary policies led to the highest YOY inflation rate. The lack of support for the Ministry of Petroleum and Ogra on petroleum products was also a blunder. Starting a NAB case against Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and backing out of the cheapest LNG agreement in global history showed that Imran Khan’s energy team was focused on his agenda and did not review the LNG contract.

The most important reason for Imran Khan’s failure was his overconfidence. In psychology, there is a cognitive bias called the Dunning Kruger effect which is explained in terms of meta-cognitive abilities. Research shows that poor performers have not yet acquired the ability to accurately differentiate between poor and good performance, so they tend to overestimate their own performance while underestimating their competing participants. Imran Khan and his team suffered from this dual burden effect, and because of their overconfidence and aggression, their fall to the valley of despair was imminent.

In stock markets, this concept is also observed in bull markets where everyone’s bets are resulting in profits and non-competent traders start thinking that they are competent based on the results that were produced because of the momentum of the market and not because of what stock they picked. Competent decision-makers do not get into everything with their full energy and aggression but with a balanced analysis of the situation where they gain knowledge of the pros and cons of every decision and prioritize the ones with more pros than cons.

Imran Khan’s strategy was only focused on putting an end to the politics of his opposition, not on himself and his party’s competence. He was the only political leader in Pakistan who had the chance to learn the system for 22 years before becoming the country’s prime minister. He had five years of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to learn from. He also had the support of the powers that be; no opposition at the start of his tenure; the ability to put anyone in jail for any case he wanted to; and the full backing of most in the media.

Instead of learning how to run the government in his 22 years of political ‘struggle’, he kept insisting that everyone in Pakistani politics was a thief. Instead of researching his economic policies, he delegated them to Asad Umar, did not allow Asad to work for a few months, and replaced him with two previously tested and failed finance ministers. There is no way a person with that kind of mindset of oppression, weak decision-making capabilities, and zero ability for team building was an ideal person to run the affairs of the fifth most populated country in the world.

Farrukh Javed Abbasi, "Why did Imran Khan fail?," The News. 2022-05-12.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political opposition , Foreign policy , Democracy , Parliament , Economy , Imran Khan , Shahid Khaqan Abbasi , Pakistan , United States , LNG , CPEC