Mohammad Reza Asgari Moroudi – Senior Analyst in Asian Issues

In the political history of Pakistan, power has been held alternatively between two prominent political parties of PPP and MLN.

The victory of the Imran Khan-led Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) in the recent parliamentary election showed that the Pakistani people left behind other parties trusted Imran Khan and confided the responsibility of administering the country to him.

Although PTI failed to gain the majority seats in the parliament and has to coalesce with other parties in the parliament in order to set up a government, it managed to stand for the first time on the top row of parliamentary election voting list, high above other powerful parties.

Given a new approach of Imran Khan in the domestic and foreign arena which will be different from the past, the expectation has risen that the future government, led principally by PTI, will introduce new policies in both areas.

Imran Khan’s remarks at the first news conference after his victory revealed that he is going to pursue new policies in contrary to the established ones, which according to the PTI leader, could be a turning point in Pakistan’s history.

Fighting against corruption at all levels was Imran Khan’s most significant promise during the election campaign, a motto that encouraged the Pakistani people to cast their vote in favor of his party.

Iran-Pakistan future relations

Also, by scrutinizing Pakistan foreign policy of the past two decades and raising issues about the structure and quality of the country’s relations with its neighbors and certain transnational actors, Imran Khan has promised changes in Islamabad’s diplomatic strategies.

The insistence of the PTI leader on expanding relations with Tehran indicates his robust determination to strengthen cooperation with Iran because of Tehran’s honest role in helping to provide security in the region and also due to Iran’s status as a reliable trade and economic partner for Islamabad.

 As a major energy producer in the world, Iran can play a decisive role in supplying the required energy for Pakistan. It is for the same reason and due to various political considerations that Imran Khan believes that development of relations between Pakistan and Iran is inevitable and has pinned hope to Iran in supplying Pakistan’s sustainable energy to help Islamabad to exit its energy crisis.

Considering the status quo, it is anticipated that the future Pakistani government under PTI leadership will take steps towards developing relations with Iran, particularly in carrying out the gas pipeline project which stopped by the previous governments under the pressure of the United States.

Another key issue in bilateral relations is terrorist attacks along the common borders from the Pakistan territory into Iran which the future Islamabad government is expected to take effective measures to root out the threats and create greater convergence in jointly providing security.

Opposition to the US unilateral policies

As for the future of Pakistan’s relations with the US, with regard to Imran Khan’s positions of previous years, especially his opposition to the US unilateral policies such as US drone attacks on the tribal areas of Pakistan, it is speculated that he is willing to adopt policies independent of Washington and focus on securing national interests.

On future relations with Afghanistan, Imran Khan offered a position different from the past which could be interpreted as a fundamental change.

Contrary to what former Pakistani officials believed in describing the country as the principal victim of terrorism in the region, Imran Khan chose a different approach, considering Afghanistan as the greatest victim of extremism, a position which could have a meaningful impact on creating a positive psychological atmosphere in the tense relations between Kabul and Islamabad.

From the viewpoint of Imran Khan, the challenges and tensions in Pakistani relations with its neighbors led to heavy costs for the country, and once Islamabad’s foreign policy takes the path of détente, the Pakistani government can further focus on domestic affairs, especially on putting the country’s economy in order.

Based on such valuable considerations, the leaders of Afghanistan and India welcomed the victory of the PTI party in the Pakistani parliamentary election, and Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani invited Imran Khan to visit Afghanistan.

The Afghan government believes that Pakistan plays an important role in the success or failure of the Kabul plan in fighting or negotiating with the Taliban as the main armed group opposing the Kabul government, and it will not be possible to establish peace in Afghanistan unless Islamabad aligns its policies with those of Kabul.

Also, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Imran Khan in a phone call and welcomed the expansion of bilateral ties.

Conclusion

Under these circumstances, it is expected that Imran Khan who plans to introduce a new arrangement in coalition with some other parties consisting of foreign policy decision-makers, will be able to encourage the Pakistani army to cooperate with him in pursuit of materializing his ideals in a new era of building trust in the diplomatic arena. In this context, the Saudis will do their utmost to align Pakistan with its positions on regional issues, including distancing from Iran, although it seems that geopolitical status of Islamabad-Tehran and their common interests will prevent Riyadh from implementing its policies.