Monday May 29, 2023

Mahathir Mohamad, the man who inspired Imran Khan

By Web Desk
May 10, 2018

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday won a shock election victory, in what is being termed a political earthquake that toppled the country's scandal-plagued premier Najib Razak and ousted a regime that has ruled the Southeast Asian nation for over six decades.

The victory for the 92-year old veteran politician comes at a time when Pakistan is preparing for change of government in the next few months after general election due in July or August.

Mahathir Mohamad is one of the few   international leaders whom Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan has always admired. 

 Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President; Brazil's Lula da Silva; and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore were the other leaders he said looked up.

While it is still unclear who would become Pakistan’s next prime minister,   the former cricket hero is undoubtedly one of the strong candidates for the office.

It may be a sheer coincidence as a coalition led by Mahathir won the shock victory on Thursday in Malaysia, Khan managed to woo a group of lawmakers from South Punjab to join his party on the same day, a political  feat  that has boosted his political fortunes in the most populous province that plays a key role in polls. 

This development in Pakistan also spells  trouble for the ruling party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif which hopes to come to power again after winning majority of seats in Punjab.

While no one expected Mahatir-led coalition would win the majority of seats, just days before the election, Malaysian opposition expressed the hope that the former prime minister’s connection to rural Muslim voters can trigger what they called “Malay tsunami”, a  metaphor to describe  a surge of support from disillusioned members of the country's Muslim majority.

PTI chairman has long used this  metaphor  to describe his huge political rallies. 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan’s northwestern province ruled by Khan’s party, also named its tree plantation campaign as “billion tree tsunami”, an initiative  to combat climate change. The initiative was hailed as a true conservation success story by the international organizations.

Before PTI surged out of political obscurity, Mahathir Mohamad had come to Pakistan to attend a conference  "A clash of civilizations or A clash of interests?" on the invitation of Imran Khan in 2006.

 The seminar was largely attended by the cross-section of the society including intellectuals, columnists, journalists, retired generals, bureaucrats, and prominent figures of the city and above all the leaders of all political parties of Pakistan.

It was perhaps  for the first time in the history of Pakistan that on the invitation of a political party a former prime minister of a foreign country visited Pakistan. 

Khan's political critics were also among the guests.