The dramatic win for cricketing legend Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, in the country's general election must count as a watershed in its political history. If nothing else, Mr Khan has broken the stranglehold on the popular mandate of jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League, and the Pakistan People's Party which is associated with the father-and-daughter clan of Zulfikar Ali and Benazir Bhutto. Mr Khan's achievements lay elsewhere - in the competitive world of cricket - before he decided to do something for the citizens of the country which helped him rise to international glory on the world's cricket pitches.
His change of personal direction has now brought him to political power. Unfortunately, his ascendancy has been associated with the powerful acquiescence of the military, whose indirect or direct intervention in politics has determined much of Pakistan's internal dynamics and international relations. However, the military also has helped to protect core national interests from the attritional squabbling of democrats over transient political power. More disturbing is the new leader's apparent sympathy for forces on the religious right. While his overtures to them might be tactical, they would concern all those who witness the erosion of Pakistan's eclectic ethnic culture with alarm. Terrorists are the lesser of two evils because their attacks on the state draw its wrath on themselves at some point. More insidious are extremists, such as those who seek to alter the nature of the Pakistani state from within by misusing religion to criminalise reasoned criticism and dissent. Now that he is in power, Mr Khan should distance himself from the dark forces of regression that overshadow his vision of a new Pakistan.
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