Juggling the Devil Sticks: Imran Khan, the military establishment and the Kashmir ‘issue’

September 23, 2018 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

In an attempt to control the self inflicted damage allegedly caused by the manipulation of the general elections in Pakistan that brought Imran Khan to power, the public relations department of the Pakistani army, also known as Inter-Services Public Relation (ISPR), has announced plans to observe the National Defence Day on 6 September with a massive publicity campaign in which posters, banners and portraits of those killed in wars with India, as well as in counterterrorism operations, will be displayed on all major public places including railway stations, airports, schools and various civic locations.

This would not be the first time that a promotional activity is being conducted aimed at propping up the image of Pakistan’s military as protector of the beleaguered nation. The people of Pakistan have suffered thirty-three long and tortuous years at the hands of a brutal military that has never shied away from usurping power whenever it deemed necessary.

However, in recent years the military has changed its tactics and has resorted to the less direct but more controversial policy of running the affairs of Pakistan by manipulating public opinion through television anchors and talk show presenters, allegedly on the pay role of the notorious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and by conducting their policies through proxies. It is in this light that I intend to explore the future prospect of domestic and foreign policy of the present government of Imran Khan.

The hype created around the personality of Imran Khan as the much-awaited messiah, who would eventually descend on the social and political scene of a country in economic shambles, is expected of his government. The question however is will Imran Khan be able to deliver and if so what exactly he is capable of delivering?

As soon as Imran Khan took charge of the office of Prime Minister he announced a number of cosmetic economic policies such as cutting spending, the sacking of 522 of the 524 members of staff of the Prime Minister (PM) House, auctioning 30 out of a total of 80 bullet proof cars that have been under the usage of the PM House and turning Pakistan into the next tourist hot spot by building at least four new resorts each year. Besides all this, privatisation of major sections of the nationalised railway is also on the cards as is the sale of several other national assets including the Steel mill in Karachi.

This economic gimmickry has already begun to back fire as unlike previous Prime Ministers he has decided to travel the less than five miles to work by private helicopter, which his newly appointed Federal minister for information Fawad Choudary claims costs only fifty five rupees a mile (less than a taxi fare!)

Mr Khan’s desire to jump-start Pakistan’s economy by initiating the construction of five hundred thousand houses in his first year as Prime Minister is another hot topic for the Pakistani military establishment since they hold a monopoly over the construction and property industry, making them the biggest stakeholder in this sector.

On the foreign policy front Mr Khan has issued a statement claiming that he would take two steps forward to fast track the establishment of trade relations with India if she takes one. This kind of approach can prove very ambitious and dangerous since it will bring Khan in a head on collision with the military establishment that breed on promoting hate against a (Hindu) India and eat into the country’s budget.

However the most adventurous foreign policy gamble that Mr Khan has decided to take regards the so-called Kashmir dispute. He has asked Mrs Sherin Mazari, the Federal Minister of Human Rights, to prepare a proposal for a viable solution to the “Kashmir problem”. The proposal, which according to Mazari is based on the postulates of conflict resolution, should be ready for presentation to all the stakeholders by next week.

All the above are causes to concern Pakistan’s neighbours. Firstly, Imran Khan came to power following one of the most controversial general elections in the history of Pakistan, under the watch of the military as soldiers were deployed at each polling station throughout the country. Pakistan Muslim League (N) chief Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif lost his court battle against allegations of corruption in a (calculated) ‘judicial coup’ as he along with his daughter Mariam, son-in-law and many other stalwarts were sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonments, alongside the member of Parliament from Rawalpindi Hanif Abbasi who was given a life sentence on account of alleged corruption.

Most people believe that Khan’s success is due to the uncanny judicial-military support he received which fast tracked cases against his electoral opponents by disqualifying and barring them from contesting the general election.

Secondly, Pakistan’s economy is in dire state. It is faced with a balance of payments crisis and preparations are underway for a humiliating request by Khan’s finance minister, Asad Umer, to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an emergency bailout package of $12 billion. This would be the biggest bailout package that Pakistan has ever received. From 1980 until 2013, the total amount that Pakistan received from the IMF stands at $6.6 billion.

Thirdly, China is keen on securing a stable government in Pakistan following the One Road One Belt scheme that it has initiated: the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPEC) agreement between the two countries demands the Chinese gain access to the deep sea port of Gwadar as well as the land route linking China to Gwadar which runs through the length of Pakistan. The military of Pakistan is the only institution that China will rely upon to fulfil the above.

Finally, the military will not tolerate a chameleon in the PM House for long if he shows signs of independent thinking. The Pakistani military, which has heavily invested in creating the monster of jihadi terrorism as its extended foreign policy arm, will not allow a civilian to walk over it. The Pakistani military feeds on exporting jihadi terrorism to blackmail its neighbours into short-term concessions in the great game of international politics.

The “issue” of Kashmir is not an issue of Kashmir at all and unless the issue is addressed of why on 22 October 1947 the Pakistan army, with the help of Pathan tribes of the then North Western Frontier Province, conducted an unprovoked attack on the independent and sovereign State of Jammu Kashmir and Aqsa e Tibet, and unless Pakistani troops make a complete withdraw from occupied Jammu (renamed Azad Kashmir) and Gilgit Baltistan, the “issue” of Kashmir will go nowhere. The Pakistani military knows this, and we the subjugated people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan know it too. The question however is whether Khan and his cabinet also realise this.

Sooner or later the government of Mr Khan will come into conflict with the interests of the true masters of Pakistan. He will prove to be as helpless and worthless to the people of Pakistan in general, and of Jammu and Kashmir in particular, as the last prime minster of the Lahore Durbar who after the first Anglo-Sikh war of 1846 stood witness to the self-inflicted humiliating end of the once mighty Sikh Empire. The year that saw the death of the Sikh empire bore witness to the birth of the new State of Jammu and Kashmir.

As Imran Khan juggles both political and economic sticks under the watchful eye of the deep state of the military establishment, the crisis in Pakistani politics and the contradictions between civilian and military interests will soon prove to be an opportunity for the divided people of the broken state of Maharaja Harri Singh to reignite a non-violent struggle in order to reclaim their lost territories and re-establish an era of peace and prosperity among the deprived and oppressed nations of the Himalayas, reducing the 6 September National Defence Day stunt by the ISPR to a mere poster for the final act of a Himalayan Greek tragedy.

The writer is from Mirpur and currently based in UK. He is the national spokesperson for Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party, UK and can be reached at dr_amjad_mirza@hotmail.com

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This post was written by Amjad Ayub Mirza

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