Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has been facing the heat of running the country for the past year, has a new issue – Kashmir – to boost his own image after his failure to implement the dreams of “Naya Pakistan” (New Pakistan) that he sold before last year’s election. Kashmir has been an emotional issue for the Pakistanis, and their governments over the years have milked this issue to divert the attention of the public from internal issues and turn them against “anti-Muslim Hindu-supremacist India.” The present approach of Imran Khan is no different.
China’s hands tied by HK protests
Since August 5, the day the Indian government announced it was scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir state, Imran Khan has been busy ranting against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is considered the ideological parent of the ruling party. Not only this, Pakistan is trying hard to internationalize the issue of Kashmir, although it has gained nothing except isolation in the global forum. Only China, its bellwether friend, has provided some logical support, apart from Turkey.
However, Pakistan shouldn’t read too much into China’s backing because its ally’s actual interests lie in Ladakh, which was part of Jammu and Kashmir but will now be a union territory without a legislature and be directly controlled by the federal government of India. China considers Ladakh its own territory, and that is the reason China too is displeased with the Modi government’s decision. However, as long as the global community is more interested in the continuing anti-China protests in Hong Kong than with Kashmir, Beijing is well aware that its options are limited.
Snubbed by major Islamic countries
The Modi government’s decision to scrap the special status of J&K means that it has integrated the disputed territory into mainland India. This is inevitably very hard to digest by Pakistan, as it sees it as India’s move against the principles of the 1972 Simla Accord signed by the two countries. Nevertheless, the Modi government internationally is still maintaining that the issue of Kashmir is to be solved through peaceful negotiations between India and Pakistan.
The truth is that by scrapping the special status of J&K, the Modi government has simply implemented what has been on paper for years, that Kashmir is an integral part of India. As if that were not enough, Islamic countries including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have accorded their highest awards to Modi, who recently visited those countries, amid the ongoing Kashmir situation, adding more salt to Pakistan’s wounds. Not only this, the UAE has clearly stated that Kashmir’s status is an internal matter of India.
Imran haunted by Sharif’s fate
But all these setbacks haven’t stopped Imran Khan from pouring out his anger against India. The main reason is the deteriorating situation that Pakistan faces with huge debts piling up. Plus, there is the looming threat of being blacklisted later this year by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which could even push the country toward bankruptcy.
It’s an open secret that the Islamic nation of Pakistan is a democracy in name only, where the main authority lies with the military. Since Khan’s election, he has been facing criticisms for being a puppet of the army, which has always harbored a strong anti-India mindset. For the military, losing Kashmir to India is totally unacceptable after losing East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war.
And who knows better than Imran, who is haunted by the memories of how former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif was dethroned and maligned by corruption charges – almost bringing an end to his political career – only for pursuing good relations with Modi against the wishes of the army. Now Imran himself may face similar consequences from the military, which is looking for a scapegoat for the Kashmir fiasco.
Imran is aware of this and so he is cementing his image before the army by continuously raising the issue of Kashmir, even if that means demonizing Modi and his regime. Importantly, it was Imran who backed Modi’s second term this year ahead of the Indian election, as, according to him, keeping Modi in power might help to solve the Kashmir issue. And he was right: Modi actually has solved it, turning Imran’s wish into a nightmare with the opposition parties at home targeting him mercilessly.
That’s the main reason Imran Khan is forced to make silly and hollow appeals to his countrymen to stand for 30 minutes every Friday “in solidarity with the beloved Kashmiris” or penning an op-ed piece in The New York Times about “ongoing attacks on minorities in India,” forgetting his own country’s dismal record on the human rights of ethnic tribes and religious minorities. Khan lucidly avoids, intentionally, the fact that his own nation – the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – itself doesn’t even believe in any iota of secularism as Balochs, Mujahirs, Pashtuns, the Kalash community, Kashmiris, the people of Gilgit and Baltistan, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Shiites and Ahmadi Muslims have been facing atrocities and persecution for years.
Plus, the world also knows the truth of the brutal and cruel chapter of Pakistan’s history when its army massacred 3 million people in East Pakistan in 1971, and also its strong backing to the jihadi networks that are engaged in terrorist activities in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Actually, Imran himself knows the truth, that India under his friend Modi has checkmated Pakistan on Kashmir. However, Khan has no other option but to make as much noise as possible on the issue of Kashmir, as he doesn’t want to become another Nawaz Sharif.