Imran Khan is so blinded by hatred that he remains unaware of the hilarity of own argument. Pakistan’s record on upholding the rights of minorities is among the worst in the world and it has been waging a constant war against its own. His daily tantrums over Kashmir, where Pakistan lacks any moral, political, ethical or legal claims, are now beyond amusing

by Sreemoy Talukdar

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan is a desperate man. As if begging for alms is not enough, he now has to beg for global attention. Ever since India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and turned it into a Union Territory, a cornered and outwitted Imran has been breathing fire against India, levelling seemingly opium-fuelled allegations and threatening nuclear holocaust in South Asia. The despondency of a hapless 'Head of State’ is stark.

Imran's predicament is understandable. Civilian leadership in Pakistan lacks agency. Its military has ruled the country directly for nearly half its existence. When not in direct command, it has remote-controlled civilian leadership as well as every institution in Pakistan’s quasi-democracy. Generals in Rawalpindi have taken a dim view of any political leader bent on upsetting this arrangement. Ask Nawaz Sharif, who now rots in jail for daring to challenge military’s influence over Pakistan’s foreign policy, national security and support for terrorists as an instrument of State policy.

As an army-puppet widely believed to have been installed on the prime minster's chair through a rigged electoral procedure, Imran’s real authority alters between ‘mayor of Islamabad’ and army spokesperson. It is in this context that we must place his frustrated fulminations since the Narendra Modi government decided to abrogate Article 370 and read down a constitutional provision that discriminated between Indian citizens.

In one stroke, the Modi government turned ‘Kashmir dispute’ into India’s ‘internal matter’. With the withdrawal of special constitutional provision that accorded semi-autonomous status (in reality, it was mostly symbolic) to the erstwhile state, Jammu and Kashmir has now been politically centralised and firewalled from regional geopolitics where Pakistan played a big part for the last seven decades. The seeds of Pakistan Army’s desperation lie here.

The altered political reality in Kashmir now throws up three possibilities, as Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani wrote in The Print. One, Kashmiri leaders may now fight a protracted legal battle to challenge the validity of Modi government’s decision.

Two, Kashmiri people, specifically those in the Valley, may rise in protest and turn it into a “South Asian West Bank”, and three, it could renegotiate its status with the Indian State under current terms and align itself with the India story.

Crucially, as Haqqani wrote, “all of these options fall squarely within the framework of India’s constitutional and political system. There seems to be little role for Pakistan, or the international community, in the way forward.”

It is here that Pakistan military faces an existential crisis as it has modelled its outsized role in Pakistan’s polity by projecting and nurturing its role as the only institution that may safeguard Pakistan’s territory from a Hindu-majority nation and the only institution capable of snatching Muslim-majority Kashmir away from the clutches of ‘non-believers’.

In other words, the very idea of Pakistan is now under threat.

In Pakistan’s own words, “Jammu and Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of Partition” and it is the military that will fulfil the erstwhile princely state’s destiny of ‘Kashmir banay ga Pakistan’ (Kashmir will become Pakistan). That, at least, is the lie that Pakistan’s elite political class and military have been feeding the public since Independence.

Now that India has ended that possibility and a destitute Pakistan is left frustrated at its ineptitude and lack of any real strategic or geopolitical option, it is struggling to cope with the outrage and sense of betrayal of its own people who now see that their army isn’t really the ‘macho, all-conquering ’ force they were all along led to believe.

In the dystopian reality of the failed state that promised 1,000-year war with Hindustan over Kashmir, nothing can be more devastating than India successfully ‘taking away’ the cause of war. It robs Pakistan of the only issue that binds a nation in disarray and throws a challenge to Pakistan’s military establishment whose very existence depends on continuing the ‘never-ending war’ against India.

As scholar C Christine Fair wrote in her book Fighting To The End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, Pakistan Army reckons itself as victorious “as long as it can resist India’s purported drive for regional hegemony as well as the territorial status quo. Simply put, acquiescence means defeat.”

By making Kashmir an “internal matter”, India has defeated Pakistan military a fourth time and this trouncing has an air of finality about it. Pakistan can’t respond militarily despite its threats of nuclear war and decades of wrong policy has eaten away the viability of its existence and left it with no real heft or leverage to force global opinion against India: which is conversely seen as a great power-in-waiting.

It is evident that Pakistan’s military establishment is seething, and it has fallen upon army spokesperson Imran Khan (also known as Pakistan prime minister) to give eloquent expression to the frustration arising out of that defeat.

Imran recently got a chance to voice his frustration on Kashmir on the pages of The New York Times. Why the newspaper offered 'Taliban Khan' a platform to vent his frustration is an interesting question that demands a separate piece.

For now, we will go along with the charitable view that the publication felt that Imran ’s words need to be heard. To that extent, the Pakistan prime minister got a good opportunity to present his nation’s case against India’s move on Kashmir, but he nixed even the remote possibility of anyone taking him seriously with his unhinged tirade against India and its leadership.

Among a number of ironies that lace Imran’s commentary in NYT, a few leap out. Imran is clearly trying to address a western audience, and his claims are incumbent on a belief that his bluffs, misleading statements and plain lies will go undetected.

Straight off, Imran tries his best to hyphenate India and Pakistan on issues of “poverty, unemployment and climate change, especially the threat of melting glaciers and scarcity of water for hundreds of millions of our citizens”. All seemingly well-meaning words that mask the reality that on all these parameters, the two nations are no longer comparable.

India’s economy ranks among the world’s fastest growing large economies, its GDP 10 times that of Pakistan and it is the fifth largest economy in the world (third largest in PPP method). One Indian state, Maharashtra, has a GDP ($334 billion) greater than Pakistan’s.

It is natural that an economically larger and more powerful nation will pull its people out of poverty faster. Moreover, political stability in India and its democratic credentials has meant that the nation has been increasing its heft on all parameters and doing so faster than Pakistan that has been struggling to cope with bankruptcy and living on the dole.

Imran s aware of these realities, but his desire for hyphenation arises out of Pakistan’s existential need to see itself as India’s “equal” and “demand that the world do the same.”

One example should suffice to highlight the disparity.

As Haqqani wrote in above-mentioned piece for The Print, “China’s annual trade with India amounts to $95 billion compared to $13 billion with Pakistan. Turkey’s trade with India stands at $8.6 billion against $1 billion with Pakistan. Malaysia-India trade at $14 billion is 14 times more than the $1 billion of goods and services Malaysia exchanges with Pakistan.”

Imran’s desire for hyphenation with India — which he expresses in the very first paragraph of the NYT piece — is borne out of a reflexive denial to see and internalise this reality. The Pakistan prime minister then makes a breathtakingly stupid argument.

Imran claims that his first job as an elected premier “was to work for lasting and just peace in South Asia.” He vows to “end the decades of suffering of the Kashmiri people and move toward a stable and just peace in the region” through “dialogue and negotiations.” On other occasions, he has accused India of large-scale human rights violations in Kashmir.

Imran evidently doesn’t see the irony of his position. A Head of State is so concerned with the human rights of Kashmiris — Imran has declared himself the ‘ambassador’ of Kashmir and has stopped productive work in Pakistan every day for half an hour to express ‘solidarity’ with Kashmiris — that he is threatening to wage a nuclear war against India every day.

On the one hand Imran presents himself as the ‘apostle of peace’ and brotherly feeling and good neighbourhood practices, on the other hand Imran is reduced to issuing threats of a nuclear holocaust every single day, including on the pages of NYT. “If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation.”

This nuclear blackmail sits at odds with Imran’s protestation for peace.

Question: How can Imran safeguard human rights of Kashmiris who are apparently under siege from a fascist force? Answer: By launching a nuclear war against India. Seemingly searching for his lost marbles, Imran is so blinded by hatred that he remains unaware of the hilarity of own argument.

Among other absurdities that may be highlighted, Imran claims that India’s Kashmir move is “illegal under the Constitution of India, but more important, it is a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir and the Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan.”

One didn’t really suspect Imran to be an expert on India’s Constitution, but he needs to be told that if anyone has violated UNSC resolution on Kashmir and the spirit and letter of Shimla Agreement (good to see Pakistan’s sudden faith in Shimla pact which until the other day they treated as garbage), it is Pakistan.

The UNSC resolution clearly mentions the steps for plebiscite in Kashmir, and the first condition for a plebiscite is a complete withdrawal of all troops from the area that remains under Pakistani occupation, or PoK.

Moreover, by bartering Gilgit-Baltistan with the Chinese for Belt and Road projects, Pakistan has violated whatever remained of its legitimacy over Kashmir. If it considers Kashmir to be a ‘disputed’ territory to be decided in accord with UNSC resolution, who gave Pakistan the authority to barter away an area that it has forcibly occupied? It immediately renders all Imran’s claims infructuous.

Moreover, it is Imran himself who has violated the letter and spirit of Shimla Agreement by asking US president Donald Trump to mediate over Kashmir. The Shimla pact mentions quite clearly that Kashmir is a issue to be settled bilaterally between India and Pakistan with no role for a third party. Having violated the pact, Imran now is in no position to cry foul over it.

Finally, Imran accuses the Indian government of trampling on the rights of minorities and makes elaborate claims on how BJP runs a majoritarian agenda to cleanse India of minorities. It is no one’s argument that India doesn’t have its share of issues with minorities (as does the US) but we are a secular, democratic Republic where these issues are openly and constantly debated and highlighted.

In contrast, Imran is on very thin ice. Pakistan’s record on upholding the rights of minorities is among the worst in the world and it has been waging a constant war against its own people in the restive provinces of Baluchistan, with the Pashtun population and even Sindh.

Before casting aspersions against India, which had as its president a Muslim and its prime minister a Sikh, Imran would do well to consider that Pakistan’s Constitution makes it impossible for anyone other than a Muslim to head its state.

Its atrocities against its own people is well documented.

Nearly 1,000 Christian, Hindu girls are forced to convert to Islam every year in Pakistan. The Sikh community is allegedly on the verge of extinction. It has been persecuting the Ahmadi community with unmatched viciousness. Pakistani Hindus are being forced to abandon their homes and move to India as refugees to avoid discrimination and religious persecution.

As Farahnaz Ispahani, former member of Parliament of Pakistan wrote in her paper for Hudson Institute “at the time of partition in 1947, almost 23 percent of Pakistan’s population was comprised of non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately three percent.”

In Baluchistan, Pakistan has been accused of dumping over 1,000 bodies in mass graves to control a massive uprising. Baluchistan has been called the ‘land of mass graves’, where “it is not uncommon… to find mutilated dead bodies, in various stages of decomposition and beyond recognition, dotting the roads… It is part of the nefarious ‘kill and dump’ policy of Pakistani intelligence agencies, highlighted time and again by human rights organisations- both national and international.”

Ispahani wrote in her piece that “even the graveyards of Christians and Ahmadis have not been spared. Regular reports of graves being excavated and vandalised appear in the press and via community reports.”

It is a little rich for Imran, therefore, to point finger at others over these issues. His frustrations and rantings deserve no sympathy. His daily tantrums over Kashmir. where Pakistan lacks any moral, political, ethical or legal claims, are now beyond amusing.