Winds of Change?

The people of Pakistan are crying out for change. So it seems. And on 25 July Pakistan voted for change. Now Imran Khan is Pakistan's new face of civilian administration. Maybe it is Pakistan's very own Kejriwal phenomenon. The man who as a cricketer earned the playboy image has been agitating over the years to end corruption in Pakistan's system of governance. He has been the most vocal critic of corruption of the ruling family of Pakistan—the Sharifs. With Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerging as the single largest party, marginalising the Bhutto clan's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the ruling Sharif family controlled Pakistan Muslim League   (PML)-N, political commentators in this part of the globe are predicting winds of change in Pakistan's polity. Many of them hope, some what against hope that tense relations with India would be eased.

No mater what Imran is saying today after winning election. Yesterday he said something else. He is no less jingiostic than, say, Hafiz Saeed, the notorious mastermind of Mumbai attack. After all Pakistan's political gambling in the context of India, is no cricket. Who will run the civic show is not really the issue in a situation where the army is the final word in every sphere of political, social and economic activity. The military-industrial complex in reality runs Pakistan's economy and manipulates public opinion by continually targeting India as enemy number one while propping up new loyalists in place of oldguards. What Imran says at the moment about improving ties with India was uttered by his predecessors many a time. But nothing improved in the field. In truth Nawaz Sharif showed a little bit of reconcialiatory approach towards India before he was disgraced by the leaking of 'Panama Papers'. Even after being deposed from the primiership Sharif made the Pakistan military establishment uncomfortable by telling the truth that Pakistan was actually promoting non-state actors, vindicating India's consistent allegation of proxy war through Jihadists.

For one thing Imran Khan, being himself a staunch India-hater since his cricketing days, never rose above political narrowness and fundamentalist bias. PTI is alleged to have clandestire understanding with the Taliban. The Oxford-educated feudal lord never condemned the brutal attack on Malala who was advocating education for girls.

For quite some time Sharif's PML-N had not been in good terms with the army. The army was reportedly searching for a change in Pakistan's administration and ultimately they found a replacement in Irman Khan. The Pakistan's army had for the last few years been vigorously working behind the scenes to ensure Imran's victory. So former Pakistan ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani had no problem in stating the plain fact that 'Pakistan Election Results were foretold' because both PML-N and PPP were running under constraints and PTI was operating with complete freedom and establishment (military) backing.

Despite military backing, Imran Khan would still have to depend on some minor outfits, mostly religious groups and independents to run the civilian show. As like any other Pakistani politician or Generals Imran Khan also thinks Kashmir is the core issue in improving bilateral relations with India. Given Khan's hard stance towards India, it is easier for PTI to partner with religious fanatics. As for Kashmir, Imran Khan repeatedly sought resolution of the vexed question of Kashmir as per UN conventions, not bilateral diplomacy while ignoring 1999 'Lahore Declaration', the 2004 'Islamabad Declaration' and the spirit of the 1971 'Shimla agreement'.

There is no urgency for any political entity in Pakistan to bilaterally settle the Kashmir problem to the mutual satisfaction of both the contending parties, unless the Military wants it. The systematic and planned persecution of minorities never featured in Imran Khan's election campaign, albeit 'he has proclaimed his philosophy to turn Pakistan into a just society, based on humane values, by creating an independent and honest judiciary that will hold democracy, protect human rights and ensure the rule of law'.

Many independent observers strongly believe that this was an election rigged by the army to make Imran the winner. Pakistan's jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif alleged that the polls were actually 'stolen'. And Imran Khan himself said that he was ready to investigate allegations of rigging in the polls. In other words, he admitted somewhat indirectly though with some riders and feeble voice that not everything was in order.

Interestingly, Hafiz Saeed backed Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek, has failed miserably in Pakistan's highly polarised polls despite their massive jingoistic and communal campaign and lavish expenses. All banned organisations, jihadists and terror outfits to be precise, were nowhere close to victory. They were totally rejected by Pakistan's voters. In other words these religious fanatics have very limited appeal to people, they have a very small social base. If they continue to come into limelight, it is because Pakistan's Generals want them to remain in focus.

Imran Khan's party—PTI—literally meaning the movement for justice, was launched in 1996. He entered into an alliance with influential Pakistani-origin Canadian cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, only to send message to the diehard islamists like the Taliban that he was not going to introduce western brand of liberalism. A curious blend of fundamentalism and parliamentary democracy is all that PTI stands for.

As PML-N and PPP have dubbed elections rigged, it is quite likely that they would soon take to streets, to repeat what Khan did while in opposition. As he has not succeeded in garnering absolute majority despite military backing, a continuing turmoil, if not instability, will be the logical conclusion.


Vol. 51, No.5, Aug 5 - 11, 2018