Imran Khan should have stuck to cricket. The Pakistani political party, PTI (Movement for Justice), has reportedly leaked the name of the CIA's Station Chief in Islamabad. For the interests of the Pakistani people, this was a profoundly idiotic move.
First, even before now, the Station Chief's identity was almost certainly known to the Pakistani authorities - one of the primary responsibilities of a Station Chief is to liaise with the foreign government. The PTI hasn't helped the Pakistani Government uncover a foreign spy. But via this leak (if only for a short time), the PTI will have weakened Pakistani-US intelligence cooperation. This is not a small concern. The US-Pakistani intelligence relationship is of great importance to the people of Pakistan. In specific terms, it's instrumental to Pakistan's ability to keep innocent civilians safe from violent extremists.
That incontestable reality speaks to a deeper truth.
This leak was about one thing - domestic politics. Over the last couple of years, Khan has cultivated a seriously unpleasant alliance with various Islamist extremist groups. At the same time, the PTI leader has sought to blame the United States for Pakistan's woeful security situation. This all culminated with Khan's rally last week against the CIA's drone program (an issue he has embraced as his defining populist cause). To be sure, many Pakistanis do not like the idea of a foreign power using force in their country. Nevertheless, as I've argued before, US drones help Pakistan to address critical threats that would otherwise go unchallenged.
Ultimately, Khan's actions speak to a broader problem in much of the Islamic world. Rather than facing up to major socio-political difficulties, far too many politicians choose to blame the United States for their nation's ills. It's certainly easier than confronting brutal extremist movements. In the short term, it also offers voters a rallying point to express their diverging discontent in common cause. Yet, the problem with this type of political strategy is that it renders such negative consequences - sacrificing the interests of the people at the altar of a patently false agenda. Take this example from a senior PTI politician. After calling for the CIA Station Chief's arrest, the MP also called for his ''interrogation'' in order to garner the identities of drone pilots. It's absurdity personified. Mazari knows that will never happen, she's simply stoking the fires of an easy anger.
Khan and the PTI aren't helping to build a better, independent future for Pakistan. Instead, they're simply fueling extremists who want to destroy any semblance of hope for a more just and prosperous democracy.