Imran Khan was finally sworn in as the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Saturday, weeks after his PTI party emerged as the single-largest in the Pakistan General Elections held in the last week of July. While the circumstances before and immediately after the elections were farcical, with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif being arrested, widespread allegations of the Army rigging the results, and controversies surrounding the personal life of Imran Khan (revealed by his former wife Reham), since becoming PM-designate, the former cricketer had been pitching a change of ways for India's terror-friendly neighbour. But does he mean it?
While addressing a celebratory news briefing following the election, Imran Khan had failed to mention terrorism, which Pakistan is a known exporter of through all its borders -- to Afghanistan in the West, North India on the East, and to Mumbai in 2008 via the Arabian Sea. He also turned a blind eye to the fact that one of the PTI's challengers for the election was the politico-terror outfit of 26/11 terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed. For those who remember him as a flamboyant all-rounder who led his team to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup and endorsed a bunch of global products, this may seem as an aberration, but for those who have followed his 22-year-long political career, it's hardly surprising. And never was this more evident than in June 2016, when a government administered by his party infused a massive fund into what is known as the 'University of Jihad'.
The University of Jihad, which is formally named Darul Uloom Haqqania, counts many well-known terrorists among its alumni, including former Afghan Taliban chiefs Mullah Omar and Mullah Mansoor, Haqqani network founder Jalauddin Haqqani, and others. Mullah Omar, in fact, had allegedly even been accorded an honorary doctorate by Jihad University. The donation to this apparent institute of eminence in Pakistan was made "proudly" under the garb of funding a religious institution in order to allow it to meet its annual expenditures, which is technically not untrue as the word Jihad, which actually means striving for a noble cause, has been corrupted to mean religious war.
What's more, there's the small matter of exactly how much the PTI party-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government funded the Jihad University -- to the tune of a whopping $3 million (300 million Pakistan rupees)! To put things into perspective, in comparison to the Rs 300 million for Jihad University, in May 2018, the Pakistan government only donated Rs 50 million (one-sixth) to the Government College University (GCU) Lahore. This gives us a sense of just how many terrorists likely 'graduated and got scholarships' as a result of Imran Khan's party. The funding was released in two tranches, meaning that it is probably still being utilised. Interestingly (but not surprisingly) the Jihad University is also connected to Hafiz Saeed and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa as it is headed by Maulana Sami Ul Haq, who also leads an umbrella coalition of a number of groups including the JuD, effectively making him Hafiz Saeed's boss and also increasing the placement opportunities for students of Jihad University.
Furthermore, backing Jihad University is hardly the only input the Imran Khan-led party has had in terms of the Jihadification of education. In 2013, shortly after it came to power in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, it moved to reintroduce violent jihadist verses in textbooks that had been removed under the secular party that had preceded it. At that time, critics of the move had said that it threatened to radicalise the youth of the province.
Imran Khan clearly faces challenges on many fronts, most notably from the all-powerful Army and deeply entrenched ISI that have shown themselves more than capable of toppling democracy and democratically-elected governments that cross their path, like Nawaz Sharif did. To add to this, Pakistan currently appears to have reached the nadir of its relationship with the US, which has, under Donald Trump, moved to cut all military aid to India's neighbour, calling it out for decades of 'lies and deceit'. The US cracking down on Pakistan comes at a time when the latter is increasingly turning towards its all-weather-friend China, and looking to the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (which is planned to run through parts of India claimed by Pakistan) to deliver economic salvation. However, with CPEC projects also increasingly falling victim to terrorism, Hillary Clinton's 2012 warning to Pakistan stands even truer now than it did then.
Clinton, then the US Secretary Of State, had drawn a parallel between Pakistan's laissez-faire policy against terrorists on its soil and "the guy who keeps poisonous snakes in his backyard convinced that they'll only attack his neighbours." Clearly, as Prime Minister, Imran Khan is going to have a struggle directing his many charms against these 'snakes'... if he even wants to.