Margaret Thatcher was famously not for turning, but Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan has declared U-turns to be a “hallmark of great leadership”, in comments provoking criticism from opponents and a slew of jokes from Pakistanis.
Khan, the cricketer-turned-premier, has come under fire since he took office in August for a string of apparent about-faces.
They include backtracking from his claim that as prime minister he would only fly by commercial airliner, caving to Islamist pressure over his decision to appoint a member of a persecuted religious minority as an economic advisor, and allying himself with politicians he has previously declared corrupt.
With the opposition branding him ‘U-turn Khan’, he has defended himself to journalists.
“Both Hitler and Napoleon faced defeat as they did not change their strategies according to the situation… Leaders should always be ready to take U-turns,” he was quoted as saying by the English-language daily Dawn newspaper on Saturday.
Some supporters attempted to explain that Khan was misusing the term “U-turn”, and simply meant that leaders must be flexible.
“While dictators find it difficult to do the course correction, leading their countries into disaster, democratic leaders have the ability to do timely course correction when needed!” wrote human rights minister Shireen Mazari.
But the comments ignited social media, especially after Khan doubled down on his statement with a fresh tweet on Sunday.
“Doing a U-turn to reach one’s objective is the hallmark of great leadership just as lying to save ill-gotten wealth is the hallmark of crooks,” he wrote.
The tweet prompted a wave of jokes on Twitter.
“I was going to take a bath. I took U-turn when I realised that water is cold,” tweeted one user from Peshawar.
“This morning I woke up to drink tea, then I took a U-turn and slept again. Now, I have become a real leader,” tweeted another.
Others posted memes including an image of a circular racetrack captioned “Road to Leadership”.
Khan did not appear to respond, but his party’s official Twitter account posted a video clip of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos stating: “People who are right a lot change their minds”.