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Washington Should See Imran Khan as a Partner, Not an Adversary

Arif Rafiq

Security, Middle East

Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) gestures while addressing his supporters during a campaign meeting ahead of general elections in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 21, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Khan could push Pakistan down a steady path toward peace.

With a thin margin in the National Assembly, ex-cricketer and philanthropist Imran Khan will be Pakistan’s next prime minister. International press coverage of Khan has been critical, and to some extent, deservedly so, given his divisive campaign.

But Khan has largely been caricatured—wrongly depicted as an unpredictable anti-American, pro-Taliban religious extremist who raises the risk of nuclear conflict in the region. Bizarrely, some in Washington have even that Khan is influenced by socialism.

In getting Khan wrong, we miss an opportunity to leverage shared goals and build a long-term relationship with Pakistan—a pivotal country in South Asia and the broader Muslim world.

Khan has indeed positioned himself as a critic of both the American-led war on terror and Pakistan's political establishment. But endemic poverty and violence in Pakistan prove that his inclinations against endless war and rampant corruption are appropriate. To a large degree, Khan’s “populism” is just common sense.

America is safer than it’s ever been since 9/11. But the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen have yielded irreparably broken societies.

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