August 31, 2019
Imran Khan can’t seem to move on. Despite being rebuffed time and time again at various international fora – where he has dragged up Kashmir and the abrogation of Article 370 – the Pakistan PM remains fixated on the issue to the point of irrationality. What is even more dangerous now is that Imran has taken to stoking war hysteria and even threatened to ‘nuclear blackmail’ in an attempt to force India to the negotiating table.
In an Oped article published on August 30 in the New York Times the Pakistan PM wrote, “If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation.”
It is interesting to note that Imran has raised the ante on Kashmir especially after Prime Minister Modi had a very successful meeting with President Trump at a meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit. Speaking about Kashmir post their meeting, Trump stated that he believed Modi had the issue under ‘control’ and that he believed ‘India and Pakistan would be able to do something that will be very good.’
These words would have been the last words that Imran would have wanted to hear. Beset by an increasingly assertive Opposition, some of whom have taunted him by saying ‘forget about Srinagar focus on saving Muzaffarabad’ (capital of PoK) the Pakistan PM has decided to switch tactics from ‘sabre-rattling’ to ‘statesmanship’, portraying himself as a reasonable man trying to contain an ‘aggressive’ neighbour. This is where the NYT article has come into play.
Economy’s collapsed under Imran
The problem for Imran is that fine words have been heard from Pakistan all too often by India and the rest of the world. Also, many of his claims to what he wants to do run contrary to what he has actually done. When he writes about his claim to confront challenges of poverty, unemployment, climate change and water shortage it’s time for a fact check.
Fact: Pakistan’s growth rate in April was rated by the IMF at 2.9 per cent – the lowest in South Asia.
Fact: Studies suggest four million young people between the ages of 15-24 years are unemployed and this number is set to rise to 8.6 million by 2020. Since Imran took over in 2018 it is hard for him to escape responsibility.
Fact: A report released by the IMF shows Pakistan could officially ‘run dry’ by 2025. Despite the crisis, the Imran Khan government has steadily reduced the allocation for the water sector in its budgets.
Pakistan violated trade norms
When it comes to India Pakistan relations, Imran claims that ‘I wanted to normalize relations with India through trade and by settling the Kashmir dispute, the foremost impediment to the normalization of relations between us.’
Let’s again go in for a fact check.
Fact: India granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996 and under WTO rules the move should be reciprocated. Pakistan has till date not done so.
Fact: Pakistan has not allowed India transit to Afghanistan which would have enabled the war-ridden country to receive aid much faster.
Fact: As for ‘resolving’ Kashmir, one need only look at Imran’s statements to see how well he is handling that.
Talks before tackling terror?
The third point that Imran raises is the issue of dialogue and the ‘non-co-operation’ of India in this regard. As he writes, ‘On July 26, 2018, in my first televised address to Pakistan after winning the elections, I stated we wanted peace with India and if it took one step forward, we would take two steps. After that, a meeting between our two foreign ministers was arranged on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in September 2018, but India canceled the meeting.’
Imran again seems to be getting ahead of himself. India has consistently stated that talks cannot go hand-in-hand with terror. Plus, the fact that Pakistan has consistently been two-faced about tackling India’s terror concerns, the latest example being that of Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) which claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack. After many denials, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi admitted Azhar was indeed in Pakistan but he was ‘unwell.’
What needs to be noted here is that the JeM themselves have claimed responsibility for Pulwama, a point which has not been disputed by Pakistan. The point that Masood Azhar is the JeM chief is also something that has not been denied by Islamabad. So if Pakistan still wants ‘solid’ evidence and Imran still expects talks then one must suspect his and Pakistan’s intentions.
PAF action could have caused war
Imran also talks about his ‘maturity’ in handling the crisis after the Pulwama attack. He maintains that though the Pakistan Air Force ‘struck back’ after PM Modi allowed IAF planes to cross the border into Pakistan, they ensured that the captured Indian pilot was returned with no preconditions.
On the face of it, such a statement seems fine but again one has to look at the consequences. The point is that India struck the JeM camp when it crossed the border and no Pakistani national was involved. In its reaction, Pakistan risked escalating the incident into a full-fledged conflict by crossing the border and engaging in a dog-fight with IAF planes, which could easily have happened if the pilot Abhinandan Varthamanhas been killed. This is the difference to note here.
FATF: Imran deflecting blame
If one looks carefully Imran Khan’s NYT article is both factually incorrect and often doesn’t give the full picture. Imran perhaps realises this and his complaint that India had been ‘lobbying’ to get Pakistan put on the blacklist of the FATF which could lead the country towards bankruptcy, is not only ridiculous, it is both petulant and laughable.
Pakistan is self-destructing financially, and its harbouring of terrorists is well known. The fact is Hafiz Saeed was only arrested ahead of the ICJ verdict on the Jadhav case. Plus, the threat to ‘blacklist’, came after several warnings from the FATF to Pakistan to act on curbing terror financing. Pakistan did not do so and for that, it must blame itself, not India.
Act of desperation: Attacking PM Modi
Imran knows he needs to woo the western audience so a great deal of his Oped is devoted to likening the Indian Prime Minister and the RSS to Hitler and Nazis. He argues that like Germany who ‘purged the country of Semitic races’, PM Modi is looking to ‘Hinduise’ India by tacitly sanctioning lynchings and other forms of violence against the minority country.
Such statements are shocking for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is an accepted international norm that one does not get involved in the internal politics of another country. Imran Khan himself is called ‘Taliban Khan’ for his alleged proximity to the Taliban, but India has not raised it in international fora.
Second, on the Godhra riots, there have been several court-supervised enquiries into the events and none of them has found that PM Modi was responsible. So it would be wise for the Pakistan PM to not comment on matters with which he is not fully acquainted.
Third, there is no evidence that PM Modi has ever condoned lynchings. In fact, he has spoken out against them on several occasions. It is convenient to claim that since the attackers were right-wingers and Hindu, they would have his approval. By the same logic, one could claim President Trump condones white, racist behaviour and that Prime Minister Imran Khan himself condones extremists and jihadis.
Fourth, it would be wise for Imran to look at the track record of the Pakistan government before commenting. Human rights of Balochis, Pashtuns and minorities in Pakistan are flouted almost on a daily basis. Reports detail that there are thousands of missing Balochis and almost daily there are forced conversions of minority Hindus, Christian and Sikhs girls in Pakistan.
War mongering on Kashmir
Finally, the Pakistan PM comes to his pet theme – Kashmir. His claim that, ‘thousands of Kashmiris have been arrested and thrown into prisons across India. A blood bath is feared in Kashmir when the curfew is lifted’, is contentious to say the least. Media – both international and domestic – have not reported any such thing that Imran mentions. Neither is this sentence true that, ‘Already, Kashmiris coming out in defiance of the curfew are being shot and killed.’ India knows only too well that the world’s eyes are on Jammu and Kashmir and such an action would be widely condemned. So once again the Pakistan PM is not taking facts into account.
Imran needs to note that the abrogation of Article 370 is an internal matter of India, it was passed democratically through both Houses of Parliament, it does not violate or change borders, and Jammu and Kashmir will continue to have state representation. Unlike Ladakh, the UT will function similar to Delhi with elected members and a chief minister. So for Imran Khan to claim that there has been an ‘assault on Kashmir’ is baseless and for him to threaten India and the world with the ‘nuclear card’ is akin to war-mongering.
Imran needs to realise that there is no threat of war from the Indian side and what India has done is to better integrate Kashmiris. It would also be advisable if the international community told him to tone down the rhetoric and focus on the many problems besetting his country. The sooner Pakistan, and the Pakistan ‘deep state’ come to terms with this, the better it will be for the country and the region.