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Pakistan at Cross Roads

Photo: Author
– Shantanu Mukharji
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s September 27 address at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) created a very short lived sense of euphoria amongst his party Tehreek e Insaf Pakistan (TIP) whose workers had gathered at the airport to receive him describing his speech as ‘star’.
The ad hoc jubiliation soon evaporated when the people realised that warning the world about possibility of a nuclear war with India was belligerent in content, both letter and in spirit, in the context of the recent developments in Kashmir. In sum ,Imran Khan’s UN speech was more akin to war mongering, based on theatrics and was dismally low in substance. Imran mistakenly thought that he would be able to galvanise a pan Muslim support by a speech, marked by superfluous aggressive contents. The world leaders at large and the audience didn’t seem impressed by the rhetoric which visibly lacked class or carried any traces of a diplomatic finesse. This evoked criticism in the domestic constituency also and more censure may be on the cards in the near future.
It would also appear by the turn of events that Imran was misled by his Ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi pursuading the Pak PM to resort to a theatrical address. This confirmed perception is supported by the fact that almost immediately upon his return to Islamabad, Maleeha Lodhi was replaced by Munir Akram – a more senior and experienced diplomat. Obviously, Imran realised the faux pas and now must be repenting as to why did he choose to bring in the nuclear aspect and chances of war in his speech. But the damage has already been done and Maleeha Lodhi is now the bad penny and a fall guy.
Now that Pakistan’s foreign affairs and diplomacy failed in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), as majority of Muslim nations were tepid in extending any support to Pakistan, it would appear advisable on part of Pakistan to put in place its internal problems currently afflicting the country. Foremost among the string of challenges is the need to rein in terror and home grown terror groups including Lashkar e Toiba (LeT), Jaish e Mohammad (JeM), Tehreek e Labbaik (TeL) and their affiliates. It’s largely suspected that these notorious terror groups have the open blessings of the armed forces specially the ISI amid reports that Masood Azhar and Hafeez Saeed, both most wanted terrorists figuring in the globally designated list, have been released obviously to be used for perpetrating further terror in Kashmir to make the state turbulent basically with an objective to divert attention from the prevailing woes within the country.
Secondly, Pakistan’s indifferent attitude towards its minorities has made the Ahmediyas, the Christians, the Shias, the Hindus and Sikhs very vulnerable and glaringly insecure. There is hardly a day when excesses against the minority are not perpetrated possibly with a subtle connivance of the State. Very recently a Sikh girl, daughter of the priest of Nankana Sahib Gurudwara, was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam. The local Sikhs made a lot of hue and cry but nothing much happened, raising further concerns of the minority lot in Pakistan.
In another case of atrocity, a good number of Hindu temples were desecrated in Ghotki, Sindh and a hindu Principal was fatally targeted. There were instances of vandalism of Hindu property as well. There are fanatics like Khadim Hussain, Fazlur Rahman, Sami  and their followers who regularly abet communal tensions leading to emboldment,  as seen in the cases of forced conversion and desecration of places of worship. Blasphemy is loosely abused to target the minority. Recently in Sindh province, a veterinary surgeon belonging to a minority community was targeted on blasphemous charges for writing prescription allegedly on sacred pages of Quran. No member of a minority community could ever dare to do a thing like that in a predominantly Islamic country with stringent laws.
Famous case of Asia bibi, a Christian, is well known. She was falsely framed on charges of blasphemy and was nearing to be hanged to death by for the Supreme Court verdict, she would face sure death. She and her family members had to flee the country to escape death. The judge and her lawyers also received threats. It is worth a recall that in 2011, Governor Salman Taseer who once defended Asia bibi in the court from the charges of blasphemy, was shot dead by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. Such is the level of religious intolerance prevailing in Pakistan.
Driven by such communally charged atrocities against the minority community in Pakistan, the Indian establishment has perhaps done well to relax the Citizenship Bill of 2015 to grant citizenship to the persecuted members of the minority.
In light of the plethora of problems being faced by Pakistan, including atrocities on Baluchs, failing economy, lack of adequate leadership and poor control of the armed forces, it would be imperative to first put its house in order as also to put a tight leash on the terrorists. The world will not listen to Imran Khan’s belligerent speech and ignore his call on Muslims to help Kashmiris in India. It’s evident by the fact that only yesterday Saudi Arabia has announced huge economic investments in India, contrary to Pakistan’s appeals for boycotting India by Muslim nations. Geo political equations are now showing signs of prioritising investments in a country like India where democracy is alive and kicking and there is also a semblance of governance, unlike in Pakistan which is behaving more like a banana republic and is plagued with countless self created problems.
(Writer is a security analyst and columnist on topical issues. He is the former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. The views expressed are personal.)


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