Monday, April 22, 2024

Why Imran would be gone: And why Pak would warm up to India

Imran Khan and Gen. Bajwa

We all know Imran Khan is as good as gone. And that’s because he is so pathetic as prime minister that he is no good for Pakistan nor for the Army which runs the show.

Imran Khan is a creation of Pakistan’s army. The so-called General Bajwa Project. It happened in 2018; after years of propping up his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party and his Justice Movement which brought masses in millions out on the street. Media was made to project Khan as the saviour of nation against the vile forces of Opposition. Even the judiciary played its role in booting out Nawaz Sharif. 

But Imran rubbed his patron, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the wrong way. It didn’t help that Pakistan was not helped either which, by all accounts, is dear to Gen. Bajwa.

Last fall, Imran Khan insisted on retaining General Faiz as the DG ISI with an eye to promote him Chief of Army Staff (COAS) once Bajwa sheds his uniform in 2024. Not that Gen. Faiz is disliked by Bajwa but in bypassing him, Imran Khan broke one of the unsaid rule in Pakistan: It’s the army generals who select civilians—and not the civilians who choose the Army Generals. 

And then with his typical bravado, a few days ago, while praising India’s independent foreign policy, Imran quipped that the Indian army is not corrupt and they never interfere in civilian government!

To be fair to Gen. Bajwa, he for sometime has been voicing his discontent on the mess Pakistan is presently. 

Pakistan has not just lost clout with the United States, it also is being bossed around by China who value every dime they spend on Islamabad, much unlike the United States who fed Pakistan with arms and funds even when it fell out of line. For a considerable period in their history, the United States was a blank cheque which Pakistan used wantonly. Since China and US’ relations were on an upswing till the end of last century, Pakistan made the most of its clout with both of them, and gained respect in the Arab world. Its geo-strategic location earned him a free pass from the biggies. 

And it’s been so since the Second World War when the West roped in Pakistan in the Central Treaty Organisation (CTO) as well as in Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation which took care of its west and east outreach. 

But then the United States got out of Afghanistan. It lowered the bargaining chip which Pakistan had with the United States. The equation in Middle East changed with India making a stunning overreach in the Gulf. While the world bore little resemblance to the first 50 years of Pakistan’s existence, Islamabad still drapes itself in the cloak of religious identity, no more than a nuisance in the changed world, a beggar with an outsized bowl spotted on doors of money donors. 

Thus increased various imports, the rupee grew weakened on rising fuel and food prices, and Pakistan never stopped pestering IMF when it was not pleading with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It took a massive toll on its people, reducing majority to bare sustenance.  The figure tells its own tale. Pakistan’s economy stands at $280 billion which is ten times lesser to India’s (almost $3 trillion).  It lags even behind Bangladesh which was once its eastern wing. 

It’s reputation in Gulf and the Arab world is in tatters after Imran’s strange notion of cozying up to Turkey and Malaysia in the hope to be the Third Factor in Saudi-Iran bid for supremacy in the Muslim world. 

Gen Bajwa, a nationalist to a degree, has realized that in its obsession with India and Jihadis, Pakistan not only has ruined itself economically, it has also lost much of its clout in international arena. 

Thus Gen Bajwa has harped upon the peace theme between arch rivals in recent times; that India and Pakistan must “bury the past and move forward”; He has called for a peaceful settlement through dialogue; including on Kashmir to keep the “flames of fire away from our region.” He has woken upon to the multipolar world lately where Pakistan is seen as a vassal state of China.  Thus you hear him say that “seeing Pakistan through the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) prism” would be misleading. 

By pulling the plug on Imran Khan, and by laying down the terms of engagement between the two nations, Gen. Bajwa in a way has tried to convey to New Delhi who is in charge of Pakistan. 

The trouble though is that it’s not easy for India to take Pakistan on face value given its experiences. 

In 1965, India had invited Ayub Khan to its Republic Day parade in New Delhi. Ayub chose to send his agriculture minister—while readying his army to invade India in a few months’ time! 

Zia ul Haq, likewise, entertained Indian journalists and Bollywood stars, and never stopped talking of peace. But Jihad in terrorism took a new dimension in Jammu and Kashmir while he was at helm. 

Gen. Pervez Musharraf made a few heart-warming trips to India, the Friendship Bus and all, but Pakistan never eased up on Jihadis in the Kashmir Valley and there was of course Kargil. 

And when Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi appeared to be bonding well, with the latter dropping in on an unscheduled visit to attend a family event of Sharifs, Pathankot happened.

For Pakistan to forge a new chapter with its bigger neighbour, it would have to show concrete action on the ground: Like reining in its LeTs and JeMs which its army can do in a jiffy. It would’ve to drop its demand for restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s erstwhile special status. It would have to stop feeding the Khalistanis. 

China for a while has been working for a India-Pakistan-China trilateral to take shape and no doubt the present softening of Pakistan’s stance must have been nudged by Beijing, given the latter’s keenness that India be part of a New World Order emerging since the Ukraine Crisis. 

Gen. Bajwa is not an Islamist ideologue like Zia; nor is he arrogant like Pervez Musharraf. He is aware of Pakistan’s falling stock and would like to stem the rot. The ousting of Imran Khan, for all we know, could herald a dawn which is not false. 

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