Imran – Between Hardliners And A Hard Place

It used to be hockey once upon a time, it is now cricket. Winning a cricket match against India, after all the mutual war cries on the battlefield and cricket ground, has been the best thing to happen, in a long time, to Pakistan’s cricketing hero-turned-politician, Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A true Pathan, he may keep his handsome chin up. But he is currently besieged from all sides, and analysts at home and abroad have begun to say that he may not complete his term, now into its third year.

He has goofed his way through his first-ever stint in political power, changing ministers and special assistants to man his government with a record that can better that of Donald Trump. He gained office, albeit through an election, but essentially because the all-powerful army, decided to anoint him after being disillusioned with the two earlier options, the Pakistan Peoples’ party and the Pakistan Muslim League of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

He has angered his benefactors, first by messing up governance. At this time last year, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) of opposition parties was, for the first time, attacking the armed forces and even mentioning the top brass by name at protest rallies. The movement frittered away this year because of their own competing ambitions and mutual contradictions. The military mainly, but Imran, at least partially, must get credit for this.

But the movement is back, when the military sees him as ‘interfering’ in its working. He has shown preference for Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, the Director General, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which is the most powerful wing of the powerful army. Hameed’s visiting Kabul, allegedly at Imran’s behest, and speaking to media, a tea mug in hand, has upset the Chief, Gen. Qaiser Javed Bajwa.

The talk in the Army GHQ, reports say, is that it is one thing to guide the whole strategy and operation that brought the Taliban back to power in Afghanistan, but it is quite another for the ISI chief, albeit a key man in it, to be seen as a peacemaker among the quarrelling Taliban helping them to form their interim government. Also, his alleged role in ensuring key posts in that government for the Haqqani family that runs a dreaded network of fighters that is proscribed by the United Nations, has upset the United States. Seething over the way it was made to evacuate from Afghanistan and looking for scapegoats, the US, holding all the aces at global financial bodies, could get bloody-minded and along with the Taliban, punish Pakistan as well.

ALSO READ: Pakistan-Taliban Ties Won’t Be Easy

Getting funds from friends has been iffy. Saudi Arabia, which took back two billion it loaned last year, has just agreed to $3billion. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) wants to impose severe preconditions that Islamabad is loath to accept because of their adverse impact on the domestic front, last week sent back Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen without a pact.

Bajwa transferred Hameed out of the ISI, and had an official announcement made. After a huge public debate for three weeks, Imran has surrendered in this turf war with the army. The tussle shows him up as less trust-worthy by the men in khaki, also vulnerable to his political opponents, ready to pounce upon him. The PDM has revived, this time to protest rising prices of essential commodities.

Like the opposition parties, Imran has a tough time dealing with the Islamists. Some of them have joined the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP)’s “Long March” from Lahore to Islamabad. In a way, Imran is getting the dose of the same medicine he served his predecessor Nawaz Sharif, laying a siege that lasted several weeks and was called off, again, on a telephone call from the Army GHQs.

The TLP’s demands make scary reading for Imran and his government. Besides release of its chief who has been in and out of jail, it wants the government to expel the French envoy in Islamabad because of France’s action against its radical Muslims. The diplomatic fallout of any such action could impact Pakistan’s relations, with not just France, but the entire Western world that is fearful of rising militancy in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.  

As the long marchers broke through security cordons last week, the government did the only thing it has been used to – talk with an organization it has banned, and release hundreds of marchers and their key leaders. It is readying to talk also to its own Taliban of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Although many Muslims across the globe are upset with what they perceive as Islamophobia of the West, only in Pakistan, perhaps, thousands take to the streets on this issue and some even die of police bullets.

To return to the Afghanistan developments, they give Pakistan a distinct geo-political advantage over all other stake holders. But Imran cannot rejoice at this victory that is so far proving to be Pyrrhic. The Islamists at home have become bolder and the TLP march is just one indicator. The Taliban rule has resolved nothing in Pakistan’s relations with Kabul, nor within Afghanistan. This has meant more refugees crossing over the Khyber Pass. Pakistan already hosts half-a-million, some for the last four decades. The socio-economic impact of all this is negative.

ALSO READ: Taliban’s Victory Puts Pakistan In A Spot

The US wants to retain more than just a foot-hold in the region and is pressuring Islamabad to allow air operations facilities. Imran Khan has vociferously refused it, but may have to yield, angering the Taliban in Kabul who have warned of ‘consequences’. These are difficult choices and Imran Khan is no Churchill or De Gaulle.

Lastly, the India factor. In the last two decades, despite frequent upheavals, successive governments on both sides have brought phases of understanding and relative peace. But Narendra Modi believes in giving-it-back. He did pay a surprise visit to Lahore to attend a wedding in Nawaz Sharif’s family. But he has simply ignored Imran Khan, when not calling him “Mr Niazi”, an allusion to the general who surrendered to the Indian forces in Dhaka 50 years ago. Pakistan under Imran has become part of his party’s electoral arithmetic.

Khan has lost both ways. He wished for Modi’s success in the 2019 Indian elections, and when that happened, he has been attacking Modi and his government of ‘fascism’ and what not. His anti-India pitch has not worked even after Modi Government’s most provocative action against Pakistan, of dissolving the very entity of the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Facing all these woes, at home, abroad and with India, Imran Khan and his “men in green” deserve winning the cricket match.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

Response: Naming Doval For Pak’s Own Evil Won’t Work

Referring to the need to intensify Pakistani narrative about Jammu and Kashmir that Pakistan has concocted over the past 73 years, former air vice-marshal Shahzad Chaudry concluded his article, which was full of baseless accusations regarding National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, with the following words: ‘It is time we re-introduce our script’.

Two words caught my attention while I read the last sentence of the former Pakistani air marshal’s article. First was the word “re-introduce” and the second was “script”. I would like to discuss them in reverse order.

It is common knowledge among history fans and students who have a keen interest in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir that on October 22, 1947, Pakistan Army along with thousands of tribal lashkars launched an unprovoked surprise attack on our state of Jammu and Kashmir.

For the attack to be portrayed by Pakistan as a legitimate approach to an imaginary revolt by Muslims of Poonch and Muzafarabad against imaginary communal bloodshed by Hindus, Pakistan made up a story that the Muslims in Kashmir have called them for help.

Hence a script was written which was performed by Pakistan’s handpicked local actors one of whom Sardar Ibrahim Khan was given the lead role. He was later to become the first president of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

On October 26, Maharaja Hari Singh signed an instrument of accession with India and by nightfall, Indian troops began to arrive in Srinagar to defend us against the invaders. For lack of space and to do justice to our topic I will not delve into the nitty-gritty of the affairs that took place which led to a criminal ceasefire between India and Pakistan, however, I would like to draw your attention to the ‘script’ which the air marshal is referring to.

Pakistan has since portrayed herself as a victim of Indian atrocities. It has played the victim card and used it to galvanise support among 56 Muslim majority Arab states making them to believe that India had somehow invaded Jammu and Kashmir, while the truth is diagonally opposite. India has never encroached an inch of its neighbours land.

Since the abrogation of article 370 and 35A from the Indian constitution, Pakistan has suffered from diplomatic frostbites as the Muslim majority Arab counties have refused to take sides with Pakistan against India.

On the contrary, they have made huge strides toward investing in the newly emerging Asian economic giant that believes in Sanatani norms of business i.e. friendship primary,business secondary or friendship not competition. Hence the need for Pakistani establishment to “re-introduce” the “script”!

Shahzad Chaudry has depicted Pakistan as the protagonist and Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval as an antagonist for the new script Pakistan plans to re-introduce.

Once again facts are conveniently twisted. There is no siege going on in Kashmir, there is no Indian involvement in Imran Khan’s poor economic performance that has led to the formation of Pakistan Democratic Movement and India has not ordered Pakistan army to massacre innocent Pashtuns and Baloch and orchestrated human right activists and political dissent to be killed extrajudicially.

But who cares what the fact is. For Pakistan to re-introduce the old script based on lies and fabricated by its central ministry of disinformation called ISPR is a routine matter.

However, unlike previous decades the world has unanimously refused to buy into these false narratives. It was reflected in their acceptance of the Indian government’s initiative in abrogating the article 370 and 35A. Not a single Arab country stood by Pakistani hue and cry, not a single session of Organisation of Islamic Community (OIC) was called, not a single Pakistan sponsored resolution was able to make its way into the United Nations Security Council and not a single anti 370 abrogation protest was taken out in the valley of Kashmir.

On the contrary, people rejoiced the decision of the BJP government in Jammu and in Ladakh as well as in the valley itself.

Today a new generation of Kashmiri youth has sprung on the political and social scene of Jammu and Kashmir. This new generation of young men and women is taking strides in assisting with the implementation of development projects right across the Union territory. And that is exactly what is bothering Pakistani military establishment. Their 73 years of evil doings are crumbling right in front of their eyes.

Hence, the need to ‘re-introduce’ the ‘script’ has born out of the necessity to reignite the flames of hate based on Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s communal two-nation theory.

It is this context that former air marshal’s article has been published in Pakistan. It is acontinuation of the press conference held by Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in which he unsuccessfully tried to malign India.

Former air marshal’s attempt to name Ajit Doval as the man behind Pakistan’s disastrous social and political upheaval stands no ground. The Baloch have been up in arms against the Pakistani state since 1948, the Pashtuns since the formation of the Durand line and the Sindhis since the 1970s.

Pakistan is a country that is dying due to its self inflicted wounds caused by a thousand cuts it has executed on its decaying body. Long periods of military rule, nurturing jihadists, exporting terrorists, initiating proxy wars in Afghanistan and Jammu Kashmir and the parasitic exploitation of the human and natural resources of its provinces have reduced Pakistan down to a failed state.

To blame Doval will not work. The people of Pakistan know who is responsible for their misery. Although the PDM might become successful in bringing Imran khan government down, however, what is needed is to deliver a death blow to the whole terrorist infrastructure build on the foundations of the Pakistan military establishment.

(The writer is a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK. He currently lives in exile in the UK – ANI)

Kartarpur Diplomacy Stays On Track

India and Pakistan on Thursday agreed to work “expeditiously” to operationalise Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and decided to hold a meeting of the technical experts on March 19, which will be followed by another round of talks on the issue on April 2.

“The first meeting to discuss the modalities and the draft Agreement for facilitation of pilgrims to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the Kartarpur Corridor was held today at Attari, India in a cordial environment. Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions on various aspects and provisions of the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalizing the Kartapur Sahib Corridor,” read the statement.   

“It was agreed to hold the next meeting at Wagah on 2 April 2019. This will be preceded by a meeting of the technical experts on 19 March 2019 at the proposed zero points to finalize the alignment,” further read a statement.  

An eighteen-member Pakistani delegation arrived in India on Thursday. The Indian delegation was led by S.C.L. Das, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Pakistan delegation was led by Mohammad Faisal, DG (SA and SAARC) of Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affair 

Meanwhile, The Indian delegation is scheduled to visit Islamabad on March 28, according to Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Kartarpur Corridor is a long pending demand of Indian devotees which have been a matter of discussion since 1999 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Lahore. It also figured in discussions in composite dialogue, where Pakistan was asked to make Kartarpur part of 1974 protocol as one of the holy shrines in 2005, sources said.

(ANI)

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#PulwamaRevenge – ‘Son’s Death Avenged’

bhandara’ (a community feast) if he clears it. This time too, before going to Kashmir, he had said he would organise another bhandara on his next visit home. No one was expecting a funeral. Amit nurtured the dream of joining the paramilitary forces since he was 18. He gave numerous exams and failed at them miserably. But he never gave up. My wife and I were frustrated. My wife wanted him to take up a different vocation. Each of his brothers had chosen a different vocation — electrician, photographer, accountant, teacher. Amit had four good options but he chose the uniform services above all. He was a brave soul fascinated with military discipline. His mother died before she could see his son smartly dressed in his uniform. I cannot imagine how she would have reacted to the news of her son’s martyrdom. No parent should be subjected to this grief. But despite the deep vacuum Amit left in the family, I have no qualms in admitting that I am proud of my son and I will not hesitate to send my other four sons on the line of duty if it necessitates. Amit had reported to work, a week before the fatal incident. Just a day before the attack, I spoke to him and he had assured that he will be back soon. He was 29 and we were on the verge of finalising his marriage. I am thankful to the government for the help that has been extended to us. Last morning when I heard about the Air Force attack on Jaish camps deep inside Pakistan, I felt like crying. We feel my son’s martyrdom had shaken the government out of slumber. I can sleep as a man in peace. Amit’s supreme sacrifice has inspired several youngsters from our village and other neighboring areas.  People here are demanding that a recruitment camp should be organised in the village, and we promise that we will produce the best of jawans for the service of our country. I am old, but I too am ready to go to the border and sacrifice my life for my nation. My son’s dream has taught so many others to dare to dream and fight for the nation.]]>

Manto’s Relevance In Freedom Of Expression

‘Thanda Ghost”(Cold Meat), he did not have Rupees 300 to pay as fine. Utter his name today and many people shrug. They question his relevance. But few have surpassed his art of short story writing. He started by translating the works of Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky. Emulating these masters, he outgrew the South Asian mindset. Like Maupassant, he needed very little space to be able to create a world. Perhaps, he fell between the two stools. He scandalized the conservatives who shunned him, while the ‘progressives’ of his era espousing Marxist-Leninist ideals, thought he was needlessly and sensationally stirring the society’s sewerage. Bombay beckoned him in 1936 when he was 24. For the next 12 years, he churned out poetry, short stories, plays and film scripts. He wrote of sights and sounds of the big bad city, with biting satire, and sly humour. Sometimes, he told his story in no more than a paragraph or two. Manto surfaces only intermittently as India forgot him because he wrote in Urdu, dubbed the “enemy’s language” by a section of political and literary class. Pakistan, where he migrated but was never really comfortable, has been unable to digest him because his material, wherein he predicted military rule and religious extremism, was essentially anti-Pakistan. His presence is grudging and his prophesies are recalled by liberals as part of self-criticism His anguished writings on the Partition are soul-wrenching reminders of those times and to the conscience of anyone with a sensitive mind. “Either everyone’s life matters, or no one’s does” Manto wrote during the Partition. But he found it impossible to preach ideals amidst mindless violence. Bombay had, indeed, triggered his creative juices and offered him great avenues. But he left the beloved city in a pique when he found that the sectarian virus had afflicted even those he held dear. He quit after Shyam, a rising cine-star and a friend, told him when confronted by marauding rioters that he could “kill every Muslim in sight.” Pleadings by Ashok Kumar, the superstar of the day and a family friend were of no avail. Shyam caught up with him in Lahore later in the early 1950s and said Bombay wanted him back. But a heart-broken, penury-struck Manto never returned. “This is not the dawn we longed for,” Manto said upon hearing of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. And when Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah died, he wrote exhorting people to hoist the flag, not just of Pakistan and Islam, but also of humanity. It is difficult to identify the films Manto wrote for in his lifetime. But his writings have been made into films. BBC filmed Toba Tek Singh in 1987, but amid controversy it triggered, re-named it “Partition’. Manto-inspired Indian and Pakistani films include Mrinal Sen’s Antareen (1994), Fareeda’s Kali Shalwar (2001), and Toba Tek Singh by director Afia Nathaniel in 2005. Pakistan honoured him belatedly with a posthumous Nishan-e-Imtiaz Award (Order of Excellence) in 2012.  Sarmad Khoosat paid him homage with a 2015 biopic, himself playing Manto. It was later developed into a TV series based on his short stories. In India, after being confined for long to literary and theatre circles, actor-director Nandita Das has resurrected Manto with a biopic. It has received rave reviews in film festivals abroad. Amid the current India-Pakistan mood that is hostile and given the sensitivities of Manto had to say of the country where he died, it is unclear if it will be shown in Pakistan. Critics say Das has made a ‘dark’ film about a complex man. For, she doesn’t idolize Manto: indeed, she is irreverent and much as she revers him, even cruel in portraying him. This is where she differs vastly from the huge number of biopics Bollywood has produced recently ranging from cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and M S Dhoni, boxing great Mary Kom, Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt and many others. That, perhaps, explains its poor earnings. Her Manto, performed exceedingly well by Nawazuddin Siddipui, is not larger-than-life. He has all the human frailties compounded by the intensity with which he reacts to people and situations he confronts. Das amplifies his liberal voice by maintaining an artistic distance. It’s her restraint that gives the film the soft edge. Notably, the film underlines the continued relevance of Manto’s words whether to do with Hindu-Muslim unity or freedom of expression. Only Manto, the writer, could defy God and dare to write his own epitaph while still in Bombay: “Here lies Manto and with him are buried all the secrets of the art of short story writing. Under mounds of the earth, he is still wondering which of the two was a greater story-teller: God or he.” While this epitaph was not used on the grave of Manto, Manto, the story-teller, has lived on. (The author can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com )]]>