Had a reminder that the Pakistani opposition politician, Imran Khan was going to be giving a talk in one of the Committee Rooms in our Parliament, and as the complexity of the political situation there quite fascinates me, I took the chance to hear his views on the matter.
I gather that he is also some sort of cricketing personality as well – which possibly explained why the room was packed, and rather more people than usual were taking photos of the person giving the talk.
I wont go too deeply into what he said, as he really just reiterated what anyone who follows the situation there would already be aware of. Of course, people who get all their international news from the likes of The Sun would have probably been astonished to learn that there really isn’t a Taliban insurgency going on in the North-West tribal areas, and that it is more a Pashtun nationalism that rather objects to foreigners interfering in their homelands.
The endemic corruption is probably quite well known about, and Mr Khan rather cunningly switched between small dollar numbers and much larger rupee numbers which make the financial situation sound worse than it is (which is pretty dire anyway).
I tend to disagree with his view that getting a clean government elected will start the process of sorting out the country’s mess, as the army is just too powerful and has vast economic interests that it wont give up at the say so of “mere” politicians.
I also laughed slightly at his talk of the country having a free press – which is correct so long as you consider periodically blocking YouTube/Facebook etc to be acceptable behaviour.
That said, his idealism is a refreshing change and it was interesting to hear him speak. However, one questioner was less impressed and said that another talk by the former Pakistani President, General Musharraf was much more interesting.
The biggest laugh of the talk though came from an old stereotypically ex-army sort who explained the difficulty he had in choosing which cricketing tie to wear – but then asked if Pakistan and India would ever be reunited again. Mr Khan skilfully dealt with that by pointing out that the popularity of cricket matches between the two countries rules that out as abolishing them would cause an uproar.
An uproar only slightly louder than the laughs in the room.
Thanks to the Henry Jackson Society for arranging the talk.