Pakistan: Elections boost Imran Khan loyalists as businesses bail out of troubled economy

In the past 20 months, Pakistani businessmen have invested heavily in Dubai’s real estate, and established export-import trad­ing houses

With Imran Khan in jail, how will his party negotiate the coming weeks? (photo: @Asadsurbana01/X)
With Imran Khan in jail, how will his party negotiate the coming weeks? (photo: @Asadsurbana01/X)
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NH Digital

Loyalists of jailed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan — including a few political nobodies — have defied all odds and emerged triumphant, beating political juggernauts in the high-stakes general elections held on 8 February, a media report said.

While Khan’s loyalists emerged victorious, many of those who 'betrayed' him were at the receiving end of a drubbing, despite having the support of the country's most powerful circles, the Express Tribune reported.

The PTI became the target of the state’s wrath after the 9 May 2023 attacks on national security installations nationwide. Every effort was made to literally erase Khan’s party from the political arena by jailing its top leadership and workers, forcing them to change loyalties or give up politics, and imposing a media blackout on their activities, the report said.

Bottom line: it became extremely difficult to stay loyal to Khan. Prominent among those who ditched him was Pervez Khattak, former chief minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, who jumped ship to form a splinter group by the name of PTI-Parliamentarians.

Sugar cartel boss Jahangir Tareen — who was once in Khan's inner circle — also cobbled together the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP), apparently at the behest of the powers that be, to woo PTI deserters.

However, both parties have received a humiliating drubbing in the elections. Though the final results are as yet unclear owing to allegations of rigging flying back and forth and possible repolling in several seats.

Pakistan's wealthy aren't sticking around either. In the past 20 months, Pakistani businessmen and other well-heeled individuals have not only been investing heavily in Dubai’s real estate, but also establishing export-import trad­ing houses there, according to media reports.

“It is not a surprise that Pakistanis have been investing in real estate in Dubai, what is important is the establishment of trading and business houses by Pakistanis,” said Anwar Khawaja, a Karachi-based investor who also has businesses in Dubai. “Many big business tycoons in Pakistan have partially or fully shifted their business to Dubai, depriving the country of income and jobs.”

However, Khawaja said many are justified in their actions. Pakistan's political and economic uncertainties, along with the deteriorating law and order situation, have frightened the business community, who regularly pay ‘extortion money’ to one or another group in Karachi, according to a Dawn report.

Khawaja said top business families are permanently living in Dubai, and have bought houses and established trade with foreign countries, while Dawn reported that they also operate as a base for the trading of Pakistani goods; exports and imports to other countries.

“It is easy to trade from Dubai, since there is no problem with opening accounts for exports or imports. They earn and invest in Dubai, and the real estate in particular is a paradise for making money,” Khawaja said.

While several analysts suggest the immediate formation of a new government in Islamabad as the only way to get rid of uncertainties, others say the new government would have to work on a war footing to improve the country's economic indicators, the Dawn report said.

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