Sticky Wicket

It's shocking. This just shows how this was really not a clean, fair election for democrats who were running because you had 800 known terrorists who have murdered people, sometimes hundreds and sometimes thousands, involved.

Ayres:  Khan gave a victory speech, and, if you landed from the Moon and the first thing you knew about Pakistan was this speech, it was a pretty good speech.

He really set a tone for looking ahead in a positive direction. He spoke in the first half of his speech about his domestic agenda and his ideas of an Islamic welfare state. People who have looked at this are not quite sure what that means really. He's talked about trying to make Pakistan like Medina. We'll have to see how that unfolds.

The second part of his speech focused on foreign policy, and for me, that was the interesting part. The first country he mentioned in this foreign policy component of his speech was China, and how China was the country that had really given Pakistan a chance in the world by creating this China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. It's up to a $62 billion pledged commitment, though not all of that has been realized yet, to build infrastructure throughout Pakistan and connect China's western provinces to the Indian Ocean through Pakistan.

And I think there are a lot of concerns both in Pakistan and externally about the debt trap that is coming down the pike in the not-too-distant future. But setting that aside, he spoke about how this is a really important relationship, and how again, he used that phrase a couple of times: China has given Pakistan a chance. He wanted to convey the strength in the relationship.

The second country he mentioned was Afghanistan and how it would be very important in his foreign policy to have a better relationship with Afghanistan and to have open borders “like the European Union,” as he put it. That's a very troubled bilateral relationship. The border, has been a point of conflict and people have been building a fence, so I'm not really sure again where this is going. But I did think it was a positive signal that President Ashraf Ghani has invited Imran Khan to visit.

He mentioned the United States third, speaking about wanting to change the dynamics of the relationship with the United States — that it has been an unbalanced relationship. He wants it to be more mutually reciprocal. He spoke about the fact that the United States provides aid and then wants Pakistan to do what it says. These are longstanding complaints. I am not sure that that materially changes the direction of U.S.-Pakistan ties yet. He also spoke about wanting to improve ties with Iran (interestingly), about having a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, and about wanting to be a peace broker in the Middle East.

Fair: Pervez Musharraf also actually floated the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel. Both sides said: we really don’t need you. I don't know if you noticed this, but the Israeli press took some interest in Imran Khan's election. But Khan, despite his first wife being Jewish, has also made a number of nasty antisemitic statements as well. What Israeli journalists want to know is: is there any possibility that Khan would reopen Musharraf's initiative to consider normalizing ties?

Pande: On India, Khan did say that if India takes one step, Pakistan will take two. So you could see a handshake or something if the two leaders meet somewhere. However, for India, things will not change till some action is taken against terrorism and jihad, and so even if there's a handshake or a smile at the U.N. General Assembly or one of the SCO summits, things are really not going to change.

I don't think they will change with the others either. With Afghanistan, he may again meet President Ghani, but will the Pakistan Army really give up on what it's doing in Afghanistan? Khan has referred to the Afghan Taliban as freedom fighters and as people he didn't really see as doing anything wrong. So even if he has changed his views, will he be able to do something or move beyond the limited space that a Pakistani Prime Minister has in deciding foreign policy? I don't know.

If he does really face the corruption which he wants to fight, that will come back to bite him. For every Pakistani civilian Prime Minister, corruption doesn't really matter as long as they're with the military. Corruption matters when they're against the military. Nawaz Sharif was fine all these decades. There's a problem with him only when he turned against what the military was doing. And I don’t think Imran Khan will be able to change domestic politics, fight against corruption, and change foreign policy, without stepping beyond the boundary that the military establishment has set for him.

OR: What is the current state of Pakistan’s economy?

Fair: Pakistan has this modus operandi where the Pakistan Army takes the largest share from the budget without ever having to justify it before Parliament in any significant way. It then relies upon IMF bailouts to keep the rest of the country afloat. The Americans will continue supporting these IMF bailouts because we believe that Pakistan is too dangerous to fail. What this really does is it lubricates a friction that would ordinarily arise between the people who've been literally colonized by an Army that hogs all the resources (despite having started a number of wars without winning a single one of them).

What should be confronting American policy makers, but I fear isn't for a variety of reasons (partly because of the current regime in the White House), is that we're on autopilot with the IMF. We worry that Pakistan is too dangerous to fail. I don't think it will fail. But by being there to underwrite another IMF bailout, we have incentivized Pakistan to continue over-consuming Chinese debt. This is going to eventually put us in a really interesting dilemma where the American taxpayer who largely contributes to the IMF is essentially going to be subsidizing these China-Pakistan Economic Corridor loans.