It was to be expected that much of Indian media and Pakistani media loyal to Imran Khan’s domestic political opponents would have a less than positive take on his historic election victory, but what might have been less expected was the collective smugness, negativity, and snide attitude with which the western mainstream media greeted the victory of Imran Khan and his PTI party.
Clearly, there is no grand conspiracy between RAW (India’s foreign intelligence service), Imran Khan’s domestic opponents and the media companies in Washington, New York and London. Instead, there is a mentality among the western mainstream media that is worryingly uniform. This mentality which is the product of self-evident group think has developed a new collective opinion on Imran Khan right at the moment when opinions on Imran Khan ought to be motivated by constructive honesty rather than a psychological feud.
In this sense, most western media outlets have now joined the often feud driven Pakistani political scene because they feel “betrayed” by Imran Khan. When he was a scholar at Oxford, a champion cricketer and long time opposition leader who most though never stood a chance of forming a government, he was the darling of the western mainstream media because his journey from the pith to the opposition made for good television.
However, now that his anti-elite, populist and geopolitically multipolar policies have literally trashed the political fortunes Pakistan’s legacy and fringe parties, the “good television story” is now a man who is in a position to change one of the world’s most important countries in the heart of Asia. The western media instinctively dislikes when a political outsider who was “not supposed to win” an election, wins an election. This is true even within western states. Setting his policies aisde, Donald Trump remains criticised constantly by the western mainstream media not so much for his economic and foreign policies but his personal style and his penchant for commenting frankly on domestic affairs via Twitter.
But Donald Trump remains a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant so he is shielded from the worst of the ire that the western mainstream media uniformly reserves for Asian political leaders. While Imran Khan’s cricketing fame and good looks used to earn him praise, now these attributes are used by the western media to imply he has no substance. While Imran Khan’s twenty-two years as an opposition politician used to feed western mainstream media stories to fill slow news days, now his years on the opposition side of Pakistani politices are forgotten as the man is classed a “political outsider”.
It all comes down to a psychological colonial mentality whereby elitist westerners are just about willing to accept the self-government of Asian countries when they are run by predictable local elites and dynastic clans, but when a truly independent Asian leader who cultivates loyalty among the people rather than among his banking associates in Zurich, Wall Street and The City of London – such a man will be insulted, underestimated and even lied about in the mainstream western press.
Take for example The Philippines. During the reign of former President Noynoy Aquino, the country was forgiven for its poverty, its inefficient public services, its rampant drug crime and its laughable foreign policy. Under the fiercely independent current President Rodrigo Duterte, a man who works tirelessly to solve the aforementioned problems, the country is laughed at, ridiculed and its leader is painted as an evil tyrant even though he is among the most beloved leaders in the modern history of The Philippines among the Filipino people, including both locals and overseas Filipinos.
While Imran Khan is a very different politician than Duterte and will soon govern a very different kind of nation, he too is a man beloved by the people, particularly the young who supported his PTI party in record numbers. Because of his populism and because he realises that the world does not revolve around the western banking system and western armies, Imran Khan has been on the receiving end of more smug, snide scepticism by the western mainstream media in 24 hours than Nawaz Sharif and his family had been after years and years of scandal upon scandal. Whether as a politician, a man banned from political office or a man behind bars, Nawaz Sharif did not threaten the west’s neo-colonial conception of a large Asian nation. But Imran Khan does, not least because he is deeply familiar with the west having lived there for a number of years.
According to the neo-colonial mentality, because Imran Khan lived in London and was schooled at Oxford he was “supposed” to govern as someone ashamed of Pakistan and ashamed of pan-Asianism. The neo-colonial mentality dictates that an Asian educated in the west should become a second class pseudo-westerner rather than a true Asian with patriotic loyalties to his nation. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew helped to shatter western conceptions in this regard and because of his success he was feared by western snobs while celebrated by independent minded Asians.
Rather than kowtow to the western neo-colonial and deeply racist agenda, Imran Khan secured a victory by championing Pakistan’s internal development on Pakistani terms and with Pakistanis characteristics and likewise, when speaking of countries with whom Pakistan should have good relations, he began with China – the Asian country whose success frightens western elites the way that a child is frightened of sleeping in a darkened room.
While there have been plenty of statements in the western mainstream media expressing doubts over Imran Khan before even giving him the chance to form his government, it was an accidental insult which proved all too telling. Oscar Wilde once said, “A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.” This helps explain why on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) flagship news programme Newsnight, they showed a photo of fast bowler Wasim Akram when speaking about Imran Khan. To add further unintentional insult to injury, in a piece by the Independent reporting on the BBC’s accidental insult, they referred to Imran Khan as Pakistan’s incoming President rather than as the incoming Prime Minister. As media organisations awash in money, one would think they could get these very basic facts correct.
Imran Khan has typically been gracious in giving interviews to western mainstream media outlets and in many ways this was understandable as it offered him a chance to speak to reporters who at the very minimum didn’t have a specifically pro-PML-N, pro-PPP or pro-India agenda. But now that Imran Khan is set to be Pakistan’s new political leader, it is becoming all too clear that these western media outlets now have a bitter personal agenda against Imran Khan. Because of this, there is no longer a need for Pakistan’s new head of government to answer the criticisms of those who have condemned his government before it is even officially formed. He has something far more important to do – govern in the name of the people and in the pursuit of prosperity through peaceful multipolarity.