Ron Paul's appeal is mostly limited to Americans. However, Pakistan now has its version of Ron Paul. His name is Imran Khan. Westerners should get accustomed to the name, because he will likely be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. Imran Khan is making news today by leading a March to Waziristan, where most US drone strikes occur. Americans and British protesters have joined in the march to one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Imran Khan has stated that if anything happens it will be the fault of the President, Asif Ali Zardari.
Speak to any Pakistani from any region or of any ethnic group and they will state that they are oppose to drone strikes. They also condemn the NATO war in Afghanistan. This has also been confirmed by polling agencies.
Imran Khan is taking it a step further today. He is endangering his life from the Taliban and US drones. Additionally, Imran Khan seems to be serious about opposing drones. In a recent interview with Hamid Mir of Capital Talk, Imran Khan states that if he is appointed Prime Minister, he will ask US to stop drone strikes, and if they do not desist, then he will order the Pakistani Air-Force to shoot down the drones. Both Ron Paul and Imran Khan are critics of drone strikes in Pakistan.
Unlike Ron Paul, Imran Khan appears to be a serious contender for the next leader of Pakistan. Unless (many people in Pakistan think) the notoriously corrupt Zardari fixes the elections, this appears to be a foregone conclusion. Zardari is so hated, that many curse words have been named after him. Like Ron Paul, Imran Khan has gained a lot of popularity from young people. Young Pakistanis like young Americans have grown tired of politics and corruption. They want an outsider who promises to clean up politics. Pakistan is an extremely ethnic society. Many people identify by their ethnicity first. Imran Khan is gaining the support of a vast array of young people across ethnic groups; Pathans, Punjabis, Memons, Sindhis, Muhajirs etc.
Young people are drawn to politicians who promise to make everything better. President Obama won the election by promising many things in 2008. Many young people disillusioned with the GOP and Democrats are flocking to to Ron Paul. Khan's second biggest promise is to end corruption in Pakistan. Ron Paul has promised to do the same in Washington.
Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based organisation that puts out an annual Corruptions Perception Index (CPI), attributes corruption to autocratic governments, sprawling government bureaucracies of under-paid, under-trained civil servants and a lack of media freedom to keep track of fat government contracts and easy money. TI ranked Pakistan 139th among 180 countries in its 2009 CPI. Part of Imran Khan's plan to root out corruption is by forcing making Pakistani leaders declare their assets. Imran Khan has publicly declared how much money he has, and has urged other politicians to do the same. President Zardari is estimated to be worth well over $1 billion; however, we have reason to believe that the number is far higher.
Both men oppose foreign aid to Pakistan. Ron Paul opposes all foreign aid. Imran Khan states that he will not accept American money. In an interview earlier this year, Imran Khan states "We need to be a friend of American, but not a hired gun," he says. "We will take no aid from them. We will stand on our own feet, with a fully sovereign foreign policy and no terrorism from our soil."But many Pakistanis believe that this is all campaign rhetoric.
Ron Paul has been a member of the House of Representatives for decades, but Paul has never been an insider. In Pakistani politics, Imran Khan is an outsider. He has never formally been in politics, but has gained support through his support of charities. Additionally, Imran Khan was a famous Cricket player, cricket is almost a religion in Pakistan. However, neither man has ever been tested in a large political role. While Paul has been in politics for decades, he has never had a crucial role (partially due to his desire to be an outsider).
However, critics of both men, note that they cannot deliver on their promises when assuming a larger role. Would Imran Khan truly shoot down an American air force jet or a drone? Would Ron Paul 'end the fed', as he promises? No one knows the answer, but it seems doubtful that the answer is yes. It is much easier to promise voters what they want to hear, than to deliver on their promise. Pakistan's relationship with the US is extremely complicated. Pundits who think they can resolve the issue with one liners do not understand the intricacies of Pakistan and its relationship with the United States.
One thing seems certain, we think Ron Paul and Imran Khan would be bestest of friends.