Pakistan has mostly seen traditional populism where politicians rail against non-identity-based elites. Bhutto was partly a populist, for he mixed serious socialist ideology with populist gimmicks. Benazir and Nawaz often used populist themes to fool the people. But Imran is Pakistan’s first purely populist leader. No leader since Bhutto has mobilised people as much against elites. Bhutto (and Nawaz) fooled the masses only. Imran has managed to fool even the educated middle class. Bhutto’s politics was left wing while Imran’s is right wing. Bhutto used both serious ideas and questionable narratives. In Imran’s case, the tilt is towards the latter.
So austerity, dam donation appeals and recovering looted wealth have replaced serious ideas for increasing taxes, investment and saving. China and India have much bigger and richer expat groups, but have never considered building large dams via their donations. Yet, we aim to do so. If ever serious policy ideas come from this regime, they certainly won’t come from Imran himself. Luckily, he is not a bigot like Modi and Trump who openly employ identity-based hatred.