Circumstantial evidence can be marshaled to establish that a level playing field was not available to Pakistan’s two mainstream political parties – the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan People’s Party – in the parliamentary poll on July 25.
But that alone cannot delegitimize the victory of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by Imran Khan.
Khan likely benefited from the denial of a level playing field to Nawaz Sharif. But that is not the whole story. His mandate is authentic and he is no one’s creation. Khan astutely presented himself as the symbol of ‘change’ and his mandate reflects the Pakistani people’s craving for change.
In fact, the expectations of the people are high and Khan will be hard-pressed to fulfill them. The national program he outlined in his victory speech challenges entrenched interest groups, who will no doubt resist. Compromises may become necessary, even inevitable. If not, confrontation may ensue. The robust opposition will make the going very tough for Khan at every stage.
Three things must be said here. First, the rout of the ‘religious parties’ has been absolute. The astonishing part is that Pakistani voters displayed impeccable secular temper to reject any politician who sought to exploit religious sentiment.
Second, India did not figure as a topic during the election campaign. The focus was almost entirely on Pakistan’s political economy. Third, and most importantly, Khan managed to secure a fairly broad-based mandate, although Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa remains his citadel.
The good part is that Khan has a track record of some two decades in politics. Which is saying a lot because politics in Pakistan is not for the faint-hearted. Interestingly, Khan once mentioned as his four role models Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, Singapore’s late mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula.
Doesn’t that say something about Khan? He would like to be seen as a forceful and decisive prime minister who is result-oriented – and, while being “populist,” a nation-builder and nationalist, too.
In the foreign policy arena, Khan appears to be more of an ‘Eurasianist’ rather than a ‘Westernist.’ Both China and Russia have shown high regard for him – probably anticipating a regional realignment under his leadership that is conducive to multipolarity in regional and world politics. Considering that Pakistan is a major Muslim country, its strategic autonomy is of keen interest to China and Russia.
Khan’s ascendance may prove to be hugely consequential for regional security and stability. He has severely questioned the raison d’etre of the Afghan war and has called for an end to the Western military presence in the region. The US State Department statement on the Pakistan election has been noticeably critical, albeit sidestepping Khan himself.
Khan’s rise is a fortuitous happening for Tehran insofar as with Erdogan’s Turkey and Khan’s Pakistan, it gains strategic depth to counter the US’s containment strategy. Again, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will be put on fast track. On the whole, the prospects appear good for accelerating Pakistan’s Eurasian integration.
A sense of déjà vu
The big question is about Pakistan’s relations with India. Alas, Indian analysts see Khan’s rise with a sense of déjà vu. Of course, the reality on the ground is that the Pakistani army leadership will remain in the driving seat, and this is worrisome thought for Delhi. However, the flip side is that the army leadership and Khan are on the same page and Delhi at least knows who to dial if the need arises.
Delhi’s initial reaction altogether ignored Khan’s rise. Instead, the foreign ministry spokesman praised the Pakistani people’s “faith” in the democratic process. A sense of unease is palpable. But then, if Khan earned the nickname ‘Taliban Khan,’ it is for good reason. He also has a history of making inflammatory statements about Kashmir.
Khan’s ascendance comes at a time when the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir remains critical. The probability is high that Khan will not let India off the hook. Pakistan has consistently argued that an enduring settlement in Afghanistan will not be realistic so long as the Kashmir issue remains unresolved.
Fundamentally, the Indian dilemma is that it has nothing to discuss with Pakistan about Kashmir. The Modi government vows to retake the territory under Pakistan’s control. On the other hand, as long as the people’s alienation in Jammu and Kashmir remains so widespread, Pakistan will take advantage of the situation to force India to come to the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, India is also heading for crucial parliamentary poll early next year. In the backdrop of the Modi government’s waning popularity, the ruling BJP has pinned its hopes on polarizing Hindu votes. So keeping tensions with Pakistan in a state of animated suspension became the default position for the BJP.
How far Khan will acquiesce with this paradigm remains to be seen. The chances are he won’t. A troubled period lies ahead.
The Indian narrative so far has been that the late Benzair Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s two charismatic past prime ministers, could not really do much to improve relations with India due to the army’s corporate interest in perpetuating tensions with India.
However, a new predicament now arises for Delhi when the civilian and military leaderships in Pakistan get along well – having to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Who the fcuk wants to stand together with a bloody crook like China ??
Incorrect, there is for once no predicament. With the other two (NS & BB) there may have been some hope of bucking the usual military dominated trend. With IK it is clear that there is no hope. Best thing to do is give him 6 months and then react to what actually happens. Speeches are irrelevant – words are cheap
" … Indian dilemma is that it has nothing to discuss with Pakistan about Kashmir …"
Well put. India and Pakistan are wasting their time. To paraphrase Gandhi’s advice to the Raj, the Indians and Paks are trying to be a master in someone elses’ house.
Kashmir was never a part of India or Pakistan, as neither existed as nation states before 1947. This area was periodically under Afghan, Persian, Mongol, or Chinese rule who determined its ethnicity.
To wit, except for a 10-20 mile strip bordering Pakistan and India where Muslims and Hindus live, Kashmir does not belong to South Asia. Gilgitis, Baltistanis, Ladakhis are all Sinic race, and occupy the vast sparsely populated portion. Religiously, they have nothing in common with Pakistan or India. Gilgitis, Baltistanis (like Hazaras) are Shia whom Sunnis consider not Muslims. Ladakhis are Buddhist, not Hindu.
So Kashmir is neither for Indians nor Pakistanis, but Kashmiris. India rightly fears that an Independent Kashmir will be in China’s influence as was under the old Silk Road. Unless China can think of a win-win-win for India, Pakistan, the Kashmir cauldron will keep on boiling – a lose-lose for the 2.
But China will a winner no matter what. Why on earth would Kashmiris want to live in destitute backward India or Pakistan when they could be prosperous with civilized rising China?
When would India and Pakistan realize that Kashmir is the English vexing finger up their behind for ever, a punishment for having asked for freedom. Departing Raj could have solved Kashmir but intentionally chose not to. Divide and Rule, then Divide and Leave, an English specialty par excellence. They divided India (Ireland, ME) to perpetuate their influence. Dimwit Indians and Pakistanis do not know that they have been had.
To the delight of the English, Kashmir will always keep India pre-occupied with security, and poor. Those with internal conflict only think of survival, not of growth. Lament for the people of India and Pakistan.
This time, India will find out that Pakistan have a leader who will work for his country, instead for his personal gains. Indians invested a lot over last 10 years in Nawaz Sharif to follow Indian narrative in the region. While a corrupt convicted Indian supporter Nawaz is in jail, at least Pakistani can hope for a positive and equal relationship with India.
I will Judge Imran Khan by how much Westerners, particularly the US, view him.
West hates him = he’s a good guy
West loves him = he’s doing their bidding
With a China loving Imran Khan who unites Pakistan against an American puppet Modi who sows division within India on regional, language, race, caste, sect, religious lines, it is a double whammy with India. It has never happened before.
In KPK, a ten years old boy forced his 75 years old granddad (ANP supporter) to vote for Imran Khan’s PTI. Granddad told party workers outside the polling station that he had always voted lantern. But this time his grandson wouldn’t allow it, throwing tantrums, demandig him to put a stamp on the bat,so he did.
Rhetoric aside, all the things Imran Khan has been saying means a stronger and united Pakistan, which will never sit well with the west or India.
Imran Khan is a product of Military/ISI combined, and has nothing else to offer to India then the conituation of terrorism against India. Its not going to make any difference who gets elected and becomes PM of Pakistan.
Syed Abbas American used Pakistan for 70 years to destroy Soviet Union.
Now want to use India to destroy China.PAKISTAN GOT TERRORISM IN REWARD.
I GUES INDIA WILL REAP SIMILAR BENEFIT.
Who used whom is irrelevant. The godless USSR was enemy of the West and of Islam, so we together joined hands and did the job. Now it is time to move on.
With the rise of Asia Pakistan is on board, but US is not. The West is still stuck in old ways, and trying to use India against Asia. It will fail.
Terrorism has been part of Muslims much longer than its interaction with the West. It is our own problem and we should not pin it on the West.
More US-India propaganda when in fact Pakistan has borne the brunt of terrorist attacks that have killed more than 70,000 Pakistani people since being on the front lines in the War on Terror since 2001. The duplicitous American-Israel have used India to keep Pakistan in line, while running Taliban and now ISIS training camps inside Afghanistan to send terror inside of Pakistan.
What is going on here….Trump is always touching his guests! Is this accepted etiquette?
Another inspiring leader in the making whose time has finally come. Encouraging to see the rise in secularism again in Pakistan, this time coming from the grass roots and not imposed by the West.
Interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing.
Jo Kang : In English there is a phrase…YOU REAP AS YOU SOW….You know Pakistan is epicenter of TERROR BREEDING…The poisonous snakes that Pakistan bred to bite India, Afghanistan and Iran, are biting them….
So, you mean to say that the country that bread, nourished, trained and armed the terrorists to use as an instrument of state policy, such terrorists/fundamentalists country wants to be pampered and rewarded to fight their own demons???
Expecting Pak Generals to permit cordiality towards India is like telling them they are no longer needed.
I have read Mr. Bhadrakumar’s articles for over a decade, while I dont know him, but I find his analysis very astute, strategic, as well carrying the win-win mentality so scarce in Indian media as of late. I am still trying to understand North vs South, but I have observed in general North Indian experts to be forward looking and while they may not like to be known as, but their thinking is alike to most of the Pakistanis. At same time I have also observed the BJP Hindu Nationalists to have polluted the Indian politics and almost silenced the Northern India politicians and experts.
Again whether from North or South, I deeply value Mr. Bhadrakumar’s views on the international politics, may it be Turkey, Middle East, Asia or the West.
Syed Abbas May Allaha fulfil ur wish.
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