Monday, June 21, 2021

Imran Khan Going Through Hard Times

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed unhappiness about the reaction of the World community towards Kashmir during one of his media interactions in the United States. This stemmed out from two facts, first the world media was more invested in the “Howdy Modi” event which gained greater traction with President Trump’s participation.  Secondly, except a lukewarm reaction from Turkey and Malaysia, no other Muslim country reacted to Imran Khan’s speech and appeals. India’s decision to pitch a young first secretary to respond to Khan’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 74th annual session further weakened Pakistan’s case. After a much-hyped reaction in Pakistan, questions are being raised over the efficacy of Imran Khan’s speech at UNGA and the overall strategy to deal with India especially on the Kashmir issue.

The criticism against Prime Minister Imran Khan is increasing each day in Pakistan, be it over the internal political and economic crisis or over his failure in handling issues at the international front. The strongest criticism is that only speeches cannot resolve the Kashmir issue, there is a dire need of a holistic approach and a new long term policy. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, President of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) expressed his dissatisfaction over Khan’s UNGA speech and accused “selected media and commentators” of “hyping up” Khan’s speech at the UNGA, saying that the Pak Premier did not make a strong case for the “plight” of Kashmiris. Also, the Trump-Imran meeting and President Trump’s nonchalance is being looked upon in Pakistan with caution and suspicion. On one hand, it is being viewed as a “photo-op”, on the other hand, Imran Khan is being criticized for not being able to use the opportunity to bring the US on board for human rights violations in Kashmir.  In TV debates and Pakistani newspapers, the fact that Pakistan has failed to bring out a resolution in the United Nations (UNHRC & UNGA) over the issue of Kashmir is looked upon as the biggest failure of the Imran Khan government.

By deciding to raise the human rights violations issue, Imran Khan expected to gain sympathy towards Pakistan and hostility for India at the international fora; but instead, US warned Pakistan to tighten its lid on terror activities in order to avoid a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklisting in October end.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision not to touch Kashmir in his UNGA speech, and instead focusing on the terrorism made Imran Khan’s speech irrelevant.  So the question being put to Imran Khan is, where are the results? Analysts observe that good results come with strong initiatives and effective strategies and not with good speeches. There is a covert realization in Pakistan that the World has decided to side with India over the Kashmir issue. Even the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and for that matter, Pakistan’s close allies Saudi Arabia and UAE are hesitant to stand with Pakistan.On the internal front, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government is facing a hard time as opposition parties are gearing up to come together to form a joint resistance strategy to highlight the failures of the government in handling the Kashmir issue and secondly the failing economic situation of the country. Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman of the Jamait-Ulema-e-Islam (Fazal) is planning to hold a long march (Azadi March) against the government towards the end of this month. This can cause headache for the PTI government. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is also planning a country-wide tour to inform the people of Pakistan about the PTI government’s failures in a bid to start a people’s movement against the government.

The Imran Khan government is walking on a tight rope both at the national and international fronts. If Pakistan decides to activate terrorist activities once again; Islamabad might land up in the FATF blacklist. On the other hand, if the current Pakistan government does not resolve the internal issues like price rise plaguing the country’s common masses, it might face the wrath of the common people and a united opposition soon.

Script: Dr. Zainab Akhter, Analyst on Pakistan

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