Political doldrums in Pakistan: Impact on Kashmir

By Shome Basu*. Dated: 4/2/2022 12:43:52 PM

“Kashmir will remain the central issue. Government matters less. To Imran Khan Kashmir has remained the central point of discussion (if any) with India. His feeling has been that there’s no such problem with India except Kashmir. He has been reiterating this to a delegation of Indian journalist (where I was present) in Islamabad in 2018…..”
Governments come and go. So, the regime changes, be it by democratic means or by force especially seizing Constitutional rights by ‘junta led government’. Coming to Islamic Republic of Pakistan it remains the same. An internal matter which suits the people, and something that suits the Five Eyes Alliance more.
The strategic community feels that Pakistan is the seed of terrorism. Somewhat correct but if studied minutely it is the non-state actors which go rogue to rampage. Be the case of Omar Sheik or Major Haroon who took on their government till arrested but they continue to cast a terror among the common people of Pakistan (and others like USA and India) and of course a major threat to India.
Meanwhile, bigger powers of the five eyes especially USA would always want a government in Pakistan which will do more to irradicate the terrorist and their networks than dealing with inflation or other economic developments.
Coming to the recent floor test at the national assembly, Imran Khan looks will lose as his own allies have somewhat shifted towards the opposition represented by the big names of the political sphere of Pakistan. MQM which represents the Mohajirs (Muslims from the dominion of India especially from UP and Central Provinces shifted to Pakistan during the partition of 1947) is an archrival to Bhuttos PPP. In the ’80 –‘90s pitch battles were a common in Karachi where they have a stronghold.
With people switching over and parties switching over benches towards an alliance formed by PPP, PMNL, MMA MQM, BAP, GDA & PML(Q). In a quick you turn PML(Q) again switched sides to have a coveted post of CM Punjab while assurance from khan to take away all the alleged corruption cases against the members of the party. It’s a big gamble Imran Khan would dive into if the current Punjab CM Buzdar is removed to make space for PML(Q) leader Pervaz Elahi and reliving his son Mooniz from corruption cases. PTI headed by Imran Khan came into power with little majority in the name of anti-corruption drive which is the current trend in the subcontinent. But such a step would only shape his political career to doldrums as people who are suffering huge inflation and corruption would be hurt and future decisions on ballot could be disastrous for PTI.
Coming to the arithmetic, Imran Khan’s PTI which is in a fix and can’t balance an equation. If this arithmetic fails and still the opposition makes the government, then Maulana Falzur Rahaman from MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal) with its 15 NAM (National Assembly members) could be a pain in the days to come.
In 2007 Maulana had a discussion with then US Ambassador to Islamabad Anna W Patterson which was revealed in a leaked cable by the Wikileaks that Fazlur Rahaman wanted US support for him to become the PM of Pakistan. An ambitious Maulana would never let the alliance be in peace. Actually, all the prime leaders of the alliance – Shabaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto and Maulana are running for the race for PM. Here who rules with numbers doesn’t matter much, instead a person and his party with less numbers can be the magician. Hence in this alliance government it’s too been seen a temporary phase where all huddle to reach the top despite the army backs or stabs. All one must wait for the final elections which is scheduled for next year which will again be decided seeing the axis of the ‘five eye’, China and the fate of the Ukraine-Russia war. Meanwhile, whoever comes to power will keep the Kashmir issue as the prime foreign policy and the best topic to keep the potboiler of politics burning.
Another political part has come to international discussion is Tehereek-i-Labbiak Pakistan (TLP)founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi in 2015 which is infamous for any change in blasphemy law while wants laws like stone to death etc. His protest against Asia Bibi and murder of a professor Sareer Ahmad plus pathologically against Ahmadis is the core orthodoxy that Pakistan is breeding. Rizvi contested elections and got sumptuous vote but never won a single seat in 2018. This only took them to streets to make a mark. Days after TLP called off the protest in November 2018 in Lahore against PTI and no change in blasphemy laws, I was in Lahore. A senior officer from the army who happened to be the minder for the journalists traveling from India, told me over a coffee that ‘TLP poses a threat but Pakistan government is capable to neutralize them whenever needed…’, This Barlevi faction now a banned outfit who is against the Imran Khan government now heard to be close to the Army brass for all political reason. Meanwhile, Rizvi died due to heart failure in 2019 during the covid lockdown. His death has changed the game with his son Saad getting close to the ISI. Saad Rizvi has taken a step ahead with threatening French ambassador to leave the country. TLP too holds the same structured ideology as LeT and JUD when it comes to Jihad in Kashmir. Currently his proscribed organisation wants the status back but PTI banning them has only helped to marginally secure the country to be still in the FATF grey list. If they are mainstreamed, then FATF may have a second thought.
With the LeT which remains to be a hybrid organization, it will support Pakistan and any government, while extending its resources towards Kashmir. Ultimately, the central idea remains that a weak democratic setup where prime leaders squabble to capture power will definitely highjacked by the non-state actors to have their ‘rule of law’ which could be disturbing for many democratic setup if spills over especially India. A former senior Pakistan army general who wants to remain anonymous told the author that ‘they are unnatural partners, cannot live for long. Union is temporary to remove Imran Khan…’ although a former civil servant feels that ‘such marriages had political differences in the past but not it’s all together to oust Imran Khan which is the need of the time…’
In such a diabolic state of affairs it should be left to the ordinary people of Pakistan to decide their fate whereas India should remain tight with its security apparatus and should look forward for no disturbances in the Valley. To Imran Khan Kashmir has remained the central point of discussion (if any) with India. His feeling has been that there’s no as such problem with India except Kashmir. He has been reiterating this to a delegation of Indian journalist (where I was present) in Islamabad in 2018 on the day his government turned hundred days. Even yesterday “on his live to the nation” he spoke the same, self-appointing as an Ambassador for the Kashmir cause. Even this remains the central agenda for the other parties wither they are run by the democratically elected people or the army. With Afghanistan having a government not favorable to USA, it’s a big question and the world is watching to see who comes to reign Pakistan and remains all about stability and not spreading the ‘non-state’ actors and create a bipolar world which the USA and USSR created during the Cold War era when Pakistan took sides, while both gaining and exploiting from the alliance.
*Shome Basu is a journalist for 27 years and worked in all major news houses in India. Shome focuses a lot of his work using photoessays. His book Shades of Kashmir by Niyogi books has showcases this nearly two decades of work on the valley documenting lives of ordinary people who had no window to express their pains. His work documented lives of ordinary Kashmiris who had been sandwiched in-between the security forces and militant. Injured in stone pelting on a assignment in 2011, he continued working the next day with stitches as the stories from the valley were important. He has covered war in Afghanistan and covered Pakistan and Syrian refugee crisis and other crisis in Europe. He earned a fellowship from EU to document the lives of Indian migrants in EU countries. His work at The Wire has a lot of his kind of stories. He lives in New Delhi.



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