Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan gestures as he delivers a speech during a political campaign rally, in Islamabad, on July 21, 2018.
During Pakistan’s general election last year, Imran Khan was dismissed by detractors as a political lightweight and foreign policy novice who relied on populism and deference to the country’s influential military for support.
Now, just over six months into his role as Prime Minister, those claims are being tested as Khan finds his country closer to war with its nuclear-armed neighbor, India, than at any point in the past 20 years.
Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the US-based Wilson Center, said the crisis will likely give Khan’s popularity a boost.
“In Pakistan there’s nothing like aggression from India to rally the people,” he told CNN. “The fact that Pakistan had India come into the country to stage these airstrikes, it’s an embarrassment for the military. But the entire country will rally round Imran Kahn to support him.”
However, Kugelman said this is a political test for Khan, who formed his own party 23 years ago.
“He certainly is a neophyte, he has no experience as a national leader, he’s been a politician for a number of years but hasn’t been in a position of national power,” he added.
Read more analysis from CNN’s Euan McKirdy here.