Say Cheese’ Says Imran – But Pakistanis Have No Reason to Smile


Image used for representational purposes.

‘Say Cheese’ Says Imran – But Pakistanis Have No Reason to Smile

Pakistan’s newly-formed Imran Khan government is barely a month old, but it has kept analysts busy and the audience entertained with its daily acrobatics.

After the refusal to live in the Prime Minister’s House, promises of cheaper-than-Uber helicopter rides, the boot sale of rusty old cars and buffaloes, one would think Imran’s government would be out of ideas.

Like Chalk & Cheese

Cheese-making is perhaps as old as politics itself and an equally complex process, but the relationship and the influence of cheese on politics might come as somewhat of a surprise to you. From the giant wheels of cheese delivered to American presidents, to Charles de Gaulle blaming cheese for problems in governance, it is a fascinating shared history.

We are told that France, with its 1,200 odd varieties of cheese, is the second-most unstable country in the European Union. Luxembourg pays less attention to cheese production.

Cheese tastes may vary, from those like myself who prefer smelly Camembert to the current Prime Minister of Pakistan who loves his mild, nutty Swiss Emmental – but we all love cheese. America’s founding father, and even the third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson, fell in love with Mac ‘N’ Cheese and first brought it to America from France. Of course Imran is clearly nothing like Jefferson who was a proponent of democracy and individual rights.

Most election campaigns bring with it promises and language so cheesy that could give serious competition to Bollywood heroes. The kaptaan has a gift of churning out promises like no other.

Imran Khan’s Cheesy Politics

From the campaign songs serenading the ‘great leader’ to the thousands of social media posts reinforcing his demigod status, to mainstream commentators describing him as the ‘last hope’ – it has always been a cheesy tale. However, within days of ‘Naya Pakistan’, Imran’s followers were beginning to notice that there was no sign of ‘breaking the mould’ of Purana Pakistan.

Back in 2013, Imran vowed to clear up corruption in 90 days but later dissolved the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission he had himself set up. In the run-up to the elections this time, the khiladi promised change in 100 days.

This time in the election slogans, Imran Khan’s party PTI, promised to take emergency measures to make agriculture profitable for farmers, even offering financial help. But once they came to power, they immediately hiked up fertilizer prices. A quick browse reveals that both Urea & DAP are mainly produced by Fauji Fertilizer Company Limited.

Back in April 2013, Pakistan’s top antitrust watchdog slapped a maximum collective penalty of Rs 8.6 billion on Fauji Fertilizer and Engro Fertilizers – the two largest urea manufacturers in the country – after both were found involved in the “excessive pricing of urea”. The current Finance Minister Asad Umar was head of Engro at the time of the price increase back then.

Some Hard Cheese for Pakistan to Bite

I was getting quite paranoid that this ban on cheese was a conspiracy to keep me away from Naya Pakistan. I also suspected that the British government was with Imran too since post-Brexit specialty cheese will be hard to find and certainly more expensive in Britain according to an LSE study. As I looked into the so-called ‘saving’ the new PM was proposing, it amounted to a measly 0.01 percent of the current deficit of £13.5 billion. Then why this unfair ban?

So while restaurant menus may suffer and the Tabdeeli burgers may have to give up their imported cheese slices, a few will be grinning like Cheshire cats.

For the politicians who think the game might be over for them because the kaptaanseems to be assured a smooth innings with the umpires firmly on his side, let’s be reminded that David carried cheese to his troops just before slaying Goliath.

The Opposition just got tougher with the former PM Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam, who are now out of Adiala jail. Either way the awaam will have to deal with some hard cheese in the foreseeable future.

(Reham Khan is a Libyan-born British Pakistani journalist, author, and filmmaker. She is also the former wife of current Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. She tweets at@RehamKhan1. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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