Imran Khan is visualising an Islamic state with military back up. His vociferous self characterisation as a leader should be taken up by others with a pinch of salt
Prof Satish Kumar
The 2018 General Election result in Pakistan was not surprising. It went as it was thought of. The strong military proved it again that its hold on polity is unchallenged. Imran is left in lurk to collect the magical number. It was part of the Army game plan. Imran Khan should not become Nawaz Sharif after gaining an overwhelming majority.
A cricketer turned politician was maverick in his style and words. In 1982, Imran Khan with his fiery bowling took 40 wickets against India and won all four matches. Thereafter, he made a statement on Kashmir. He said, “Let’s settle the Kashmir issue over the cricket pitch.” During the elections, he made a number of statements against Bharat and Bharatiya Prime Minister. He accused Nawaz Sharif as stooge of Bharat. There are many hues of Imran Khan.
“He’s supposed to be a modern face but (has) lots of conservative thinking, on Taliban, religious issues,” — Zahid Hussain , Pakistan analyst
The most important part is to calculate his foreign policy. He said that he willing to walk two steps if Bharat was moves one step ahead. But it is mere rhetoric. Imran Khan is not as powerful as his two predecessors Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari. His attempts to tamper would be a deadly bouncer for him which he cannot duck. If Army changes its track, then definitely Imran will be implementing it.
Echoing the Fundamentalists
During an election rally in Islamabad on July 7, 2018, Imran Khan declared, “We are standing with Article 295c and will defend it,” referring to the Blasphemy Law that mandates the death penalty for any “imputation, insinuation or innuendo” against the prophet Muhammad. This clearly demonstrates his Islamist hardliner stance. Several people who were allegedly involved in acts of blasphemy have been killed by religious extremist and terrorist groups across Pakistan.
The election of Imran Khan makes little difference to its Bharat policy, which is controlled by the Army and the so-called state institutions. Imran can contribute neither to the improvement nor the deterioration of Pakistan’s relations with Bharat. Pakistan’s Prime Ministers have long lost influence, what little they had three decades ago in the immediate aftermath of Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s death, over the direction and shape of Islamabad’s foreign policy.
India has made a concerted attempt to expose Pakistan’s complicity in employing terrorism as state policy. Earlier, the 2017 BRICS statement included the LeT and JeM as terrorist groups of concern
Over these decades, Pakistan Army has gained absolute control over important national security issues relating to Afghanistan, United States, China, Jihadi forces and India. Imran’s two recent predecessors-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League and President Asif Ali Zardari of the People’s Party were strong leaders with some mass support. Both were committed to improving ties with India, but could not overcome the Army’s apparent veto on normalising relations with Bharat.
The religious political parties of Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam and Jammat-e-Islami have called for the Pakistani Government to distance itself from United States. These religious parties oppose alignment with non-Muslim states and demand an end to American drone strikes. The Defence of Pakistan Council (Difa-e-Pakistan), a collection of some 40 religious groups, political parties, and banned militant organisations, takes an even more categorical stance, favoring a complete end to US-Pakistan relations and increased support for the Afghan Taliban. Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by former cricket superstar Imran Khan, is surfing the same wave of anti-Americanism. Khan blames successive Pakistani governments for compromising Pakistani honour and security by working with the United States and, Malik Siraj Akbar, “terms U.S Assistance to Pakistan a curse that has, in his views, transformed the Islamic Republic into an American colony”. In the same spirit, Tehreek-E-Insaf condemns US drone strikes and argues that Taliban ideology is not a threat to Pakistan. By contrast, none of the mainstream parties reject relations with the United States. Tehreek–e-Insaf sees no Taliban to Pakistan, while PPP argues for “Pakistan’s outreach to the Afghan Government, as well as the opposition parties, and its support for a comprehensive reconciliation process led and owned by the Afghans.”
The Road Ahead
During the last couple of years, Bharat has recalibrated its policy towards Pakistan by adopting a two-pronged approach. One prong consists of not holding formal talks until Pakistan stops using terrorism as an instrument of state policy against Bharat. The second is retaining the right of retaliation against those elements and locations along the Line of Control (LoC) that are leverage over Pakistan by striking it where it hurts the most.
The Army has emerged as the self-designated custodian of Pakistan’s destiny, unity and ideology. It has sustained its grip over power and influence because of the widespread perception and proganda that Bharat is an existential threat. Bharat’s role in the humiliating division of Pakistan in 1971 and its establishment of control over the Siachen Glacier since 1984 have remained key elements in the Army’s narrative. However, the most evocative factor remains J&K’s accession to Bharat, which is anathema for Pakistan both from a religious and territorial perspective. India has made a concerted attempt to expose Pakistan’s complicity in employing terrorism as state policy. Bharat’s declaration with 10 ASEAN countries issued in January 2018 mentioned the “cross border movement of terrorists” in an obvious reference to Pakistan, which was departure from 2012 statement. Earlier, the 2017 BRICS statement included the LeT and JeM as terrorist groups of concern.
Now things have become more complex and complicated for Bharat and America. There is going to be more incursions in Afghanistan and LOC across India. The designing will be crafted by Army and Imran Khan will toe the line. China’s shadow will be much larger. It has been proved time and again that Pakistan is the mother board of Islamic terrorism in South Asia. The way forward for Bharat is to downsize Pakistan through its international network. There is a need to strike on Pakistani military time and again.
(The writer is a faculty member in the Department of Political Science, Central University of Haryana, Mahendragarh)