Iran’s reformist leader

Sahibzada M Saeed

IRANIAN reformist President Hassan Rouhani has been reelected with 23.5 million (57%) votes while, his closest rival Ebrahim Raisi, who was representing the conservative faction of Iranian society, has got 15.8 million votes. Hassan Rouhani is considered as a moderate and reformist president and according to expert opinion his victory is the victory of ‘moderates’ against the ‘hardliners’. In 2013 elections, when he was elected first time as the president the economic conditions were not satisfactory in Iran. Leadership in Tehran was facing multiple sanctions and political pressure from the West. In this situation, President Rouhani has initiated the policy of ‘opening up’ to rebuild Iranian economy and to reduce its international isolation.
In this regard, his first step was the historical nuclear deal with world powers in 2015 to curtail country’s nuclear programme for the sake of relief from the sanctions. Without the shadow of doubt, it was very meritorious diplomatic move in which Iran has played its cards very smartly. More than that, the enviable beauty was the reaction of Iranian nation over the deal. The whole Iranian nation came out to celebrate it as the victory and expressed their complete approval and accord with their leadership. And this accord and organization has again been witnessed in this election.
After Islamic revolution in 1979 till the present, Iran has faced multiple intricacies in the shape of international isolation and economic sanctions. Almost 38 years long economic disorder and political pressure at structural level has created uncertainty among the people. Unemployment and lack of investment in human development sector has complicated the situation at domestic level. In these circumstances, President Rouhani’s opening up was the fittest and the most suitable diplomatic maneuver.
If we go back to the modern history of People Republic of China, from the century of ‘humiliation’ to Chinese civil war and till the death of Chairman Mao, China has suffered a lot under the Western dominance to international isolation. But Chinese economic reforms by the paramount leader Deng Xiaoping revolutionized the economic sector of China. From 1978 onwards, he opened up the closed Chinese economy to the world and under his policies millions of poor Chinese were emancipated. And he is called the architect of modern China.
The present day Iran is not so different from 1970s China. After a long hardship and international isolation, the process of lifting sanctions is underway. Reelection of Hassan Rouhani depicts that people of Iran want improvement of economy along with political and social freedom. No doubt that Hassan Rouhani is the visionary leader and he knows the mindset of Iranian youth. International isolation of Iran in this globalised age is not vigorous for current Iranian generation. Today, Iranian youth is highly optimistic for domestic and regional peace and prosperity. Iran is an important regional player and no regional as well as extra regional power can nullify its central significance in the region.
Despite all these anticipations, still there are lot of obstacles ahead for President Rouhani. For instance, Trump Administration with its hard stance over the nuclear deal is slightly unbecoming. Similarly, Trump’s recent visit to the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia and $110 billion arms deal with Riyadh is defiantly worrisome for Tehran. Likewise, crisis in Syria and structual level pressures over Tehran on supporting Bashar regime is also a serious diplomatic challenge. So, in this scenario President Rouhani should be very meticulous in order to serve Iranian national interest in a better way. Along with it, there are various development opportunities for Iran at the regional level, through which Iran can get countless economic benefits. Especially, regional connectivity projects like One Belt One Road has the potential to interlink different regional states. In this regard, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a very remarkable project.
For Pakistan, Iran has very much significance. Iran is our brotherly neighbouring state; we share common faith, culture, values and enjoy admirable bilateral relations. In the context of regional geo-economics situation, today this is the dire need of time for Islamabad and Tehran to reengage each other and must sort out disagreements. And more than that, both states must be aware of all those state and non-state elements who want to create uncertainty trust deficit between the two countries. In this regard, we the people of Pakistan really appreciate the efforts of President Hassan Rouhani and his team for boosting our bilateral relations and we are highly optimistic for further cooperation and collaboration.
– The writer is an IR analyst based in Islamabad.

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