Another meaningless Pakistani election has been held where former cricket player Imran Khan took oath as prime minister. Pakistanis voted in the third consecutive general elections in their nation's 71-year-long history, a nation famous for political upheavals, military interventions and chronically unstable government of over 200 million where over half the population lives in poverty and highest levels of illiteracy and persistently created chaos.

Four military governments have ruled Pakistan for almost half of its existence where no civilian prime minister has ever completed a full, five-year term in office without some sort of crisis. The global media is full of accounts of what Khan’s victory means for the troubled and almost insolvent country. But the real decisions in Pakistan are made by the unelected military officers; Pakistani politics have been dominated by the military.

Pakistan matters, even if its elections don’t. It is the world’s only nuclear state with deep ties to a breeding ground of terror groups. Pakistan’s security disadvantage has always had a profound impact on its politics. The imbalance has driven Pakistan’s concentration of power in the hands of the military, its quest for nuclear weapons to counteract India’s edge in conventional warfare, its dependence on patrons and paymasters to bridge the resource gap, and its deepening reliance on Islam as a legitimating force. They are responsible for manufacturing and exporting terrorism spreading havoc and mayhem. They do not respect their neighbors, their borders nor the sovereign rights of nations and, more importantly, they do not respect the religion of Islam.

The most important story in Pakistan today is not the elevation of Khan, the military’s preferred candidate. It is that the present U.S. Trump administration, Pakistan’s principal ally during both the Cold War and the war on terror, is no longer interested in subsidizing a partner it needs and trusts less and less. Pakistan’s military rulers are therefore seeking a new patron, and China is eager to fill the void. Pakistan is the flagship country for China’s global infrastructure building initiative for many reasons.

Before becoming prime minister, Imran Khan, a nationalist who promised millions of new jobs and an “Islamic welfare state,” and to make Pakistan stand on its own two feet, had said that he would “rather commit suicide” than go around the world begging for money. Meanwhile, Pakistan needs massive loans to stay afloat and has reached out to the International Monetary Fund for a $12 billion loan to meet upcoming debt payments. This will result in the Pakistani rupee dropping steeply, which will lead to tougher economic policies and further slow and negatively impact the nation’s economic growth. Raising cash through grants and loans will come with harsh and unforgiving conditions as every nation looks after their own interests.

Khan admits he takes stands based on instinct rather than careful study, and his instincts are anti-American and pro-Islamist. Khan has expressed admiration for Iran while the military is close to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. cut military aid to Pakistan this year after Donald Trump accused the military of supporting terrorists who attack American troops in Afghanistan. The 35-nation Financial Action Task Force placed the country on a watch list for failing to stop money flows to terrorists. The PTI’s recent alliance with Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist group, suggests such conflicts would worsen under a Khan administration. Khan is unlikely to be a more responsible financial steward. He wants to create an “Islamic welfare state,” which would quickly run up against mounting debt. The country’s reserves have dwindled to $9.8 billion and its currency is in a free fall.

The name Pakistan is a conjunction of two words, 'Pak' meaning 'Pure' in Urdu and Persian, and 'Stan' meaning 'Land'. The politicians promise to do everything and more saying “Inshaallah,” the Arabic language expression for "God willing" or "if God wills,” to refer to events that one hopes will happen in the future. It expresses the belief that nothing happens unless God wills it. Imran Khan needs all the blessings and prayers and his resolve to do his best; this is his lifetime chance to be in the pantheon of the great world leaders who made a positive difference in the lives of their hardworking people.

Sunil Tolani

Los Angeles, Calif.

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