A survey claiming Nawaz Sharif is more popular than Imran Khan has PTI supporters in an uproar.
Just as Imran Khan had started to convince Pakistanis that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was on his way out because of his mishandling of the economy and blind worship of infrastructure over education and health, The Wall Street Journal has come out saying Pakistan’s economy is taking off; the middle class is on the rise; and poverty is retreating from the troubled country.
Of course, PTI chief Khan dismissed the article out of hand and none of his supporters—or the ruling PMLN’s detractors—believed Pakistan’s economy was on the mend. Instead, local media has delighted in Khan’s support for U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations and his plea for the ban’s extension to Pakistanis as well. Khan believes only once Pakistanis are barred from leaving the country, will the country ever be able to prosper. He must’ve missed the news that ‘brother nation’ China doesn’t seem to agree. As one American paper reported: “To help their children get into American universities, Chinese parents have started sending them to U.S. high schools—and paying top dollar to do it.”
But the irony doesn’t end here. According to local media, the International Republican Institute survey firm has “villainously” claimed, in a report that has not been released for public consumption, that Nawaz Sharif has a 66 percent approval rating in Pakistan, compared to Khan’s 39. The middle class Khanistas have responded by blasting IRI and accusing media of fabricating the report, plunging into the hate speech that passes for politics in Pakistan these days. How can building roads and highways be good for a common man, they ask, who wants education and health instead? And what about the Panama Papers scandal? How can Sharif be rated above Khan when the Supreme Court is laying bare his money-laundering adventures on a daily basis?
Imran Khan is a high-visibility politician with a tongue-lashing expertise that lets popular adrenaline run in torrents. He is a quick mover, able to spend big money to be in many cities, not letting his campaign flag. His supporters have decided they don’t want motorways or metro trains and believe IRI is a conspiracy against Pakistan—one that only Khan can save them from.