Facing a horde of challenges

Shehbaz Sharif may not adopt a hard line like Imran, especially when Bajwa had recently hinted at the dire need of improving relations with India
Facing a horde of challenges
File Photo

Imran’s low trajectory ball stumped him out and proved suicidal, which closed his chapter in Pakistan parliament and compounded his woes. It is a paradox, and a coincidence, that 49 years ago (April 10,1973) Pakistan’s pillar of democracy came into existence in the form of Constitution but unsuccessful attempt and intrigue was hatched by a national hero of 1992 world cup and epitome of the principles in the world of cricket, Imran Khan; to bulldoze it. But supreme court came to its rescue and acted as a saviour which paved the way for joint opposition to elect Shehbaz Sharif as new prime minister who forms the new government to take his nation out of turmoil.

Former prime minister fell from grace as he tried to hijack democracy by adopting all tricks embedded in duplicity, deceit, manipulations, and delaying tactics to cling to power, but it was first thwarted by Supreme Court and later by the joint opposition which ousted him through democratic process; adopting No Confidence Motion against his government in the wee hours of Sunday which got the support of 174 lawmakers. The army maintained a ‘distance’ to permit completion of democratic process in the national assembly. Amidst the boycott and resignations tendered by Imran Kahn’s party lawmakers, Shehbaz Sharif, leader of the PML(N) in National Assembly was elected as new prime minister of Pakistan unopposed as Imran’s party boycotted the election. Shehbaz was sworn in as new PM by senate chairperson Sadiq Sanjarani as President Arif Alvi complained of discomfort, hence advised rest by doctor.

Stark similarities between Trump and Imran

The correlation between former US president, Donald Trump and Ex PM Pakistan, Imran Khan is not misplaced as both are firm believers in highjacking democratic processes, but they still justify their methodology and means to cling to power?

Trump’s motivating speech to his crazy supporters to attack Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, and his efforts to overturn the presidential election in 2020 were widely described as an attempted coup d’état. On the same analogy, Imran Khan tried to bulldoze the democratic process with the help of his party lawmakers and supporters which culminated in a sordid drama which ran like Bollywood script.

Immediate challenges confronting new PM

Due to election of Sharif as prime minister, he will have to confront different ideologies, contradictions and priorities of coalition partners of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), comprising Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s Jamiat Ulemae-Islam. New government will also face multiple challenges on domestic and international arena.

Second, the biggest problem pertains to economic distress as Pakistan is already a bankrupt state and IMF has refused to bail it out. Hence procuring the loans from different international agencies can save it from further disaster which is being witnessed in Sri Lanka.

Third, sky rocketing prices of essential commodities has broken the backbone of people and highest level of inflation seems to be beyond its control which needs to be addressed on urgent basis.

Fourth, the deteriorating law and order situation had defamed Imran government, hence people expect improvement on this front.

Final, Imran government had created a mess in foreign policy as he had put all eggs in one basket i.e. China, which had offended west especially America. Experts are hopeful that new PM, having support of army, might make initiative to neutralise the bitterness created by outgoing PM Imran Khan with America. Bajwa had contradicted Imran about Pakistan’s relations with United States as he reiterated that ties are good which need to be improved in future.

India and Pakistan should move forward

New prime minister cannot be free from Kashmir phobia hence he strongly pleaded for the rights of Kashmiri people which is a compulsion of every head of government. Because it is aimed at playing to gallery. Kashmir issue is exploited by every Pakistani politician hence Shehbaz cannot be an exception. New PM mentioned in his speech Kashmir issue to please his audience and refrained from making any constructive statement about India.

As per indications, Indian PM, Narendra Modi is likely to write a letter to new Pak PM and focus on terror being imported from across the border. Modi has already congratulated Shehbaz Sharif on his becoming PM. Experts opine that it is an open secret that army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa has stood by opposition though in a hidden manner to oust Imran Khan. Hence he is likely get an extension in November this year. Army controls foreign policy hence Bajwa might be a key element in further cementing the foundation of methodology to improve ties with India which will be based on the success of the ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) signed between two nations in Feb, 2021. In fact, Bajwa’s observations were corroborated by Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane on some occasions after the agreement was signed due to intervention and goodwill of India’s close friend United Arab Emirates(UAE).

Analysts also believe that Shehbaz may not adopt hard line like Imran, especially when Bajwa had recently hinted at the dire need of improving relations with India. Sharif had praised ‘neutrality’ of army and indirectly got full support from General Bajwa to oust Imran Khan. General Bajwa has made it clear to people of Pakistan and the political parties that army wants good relations with India because he opines that Pakistan will benefit if it improves ties with India.

Imran Khan had closed all doors of diplomacy with India when he attacked Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and BJP-RSS combine which had deteriorated the relations between countries. Khan had made stinging remarks against Modi when he said, “I have come across small men occupying big offices who don’t have a vision of large picture. Ex PM had mentioned RSS in his last speech when he referred to revocation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 and called BJP-RSS as “Nazi” which closed every option of dialogue with Indian government. But it was difficult to understand his psychology when he showered praise of India’s foreign policy which might have been directed at denigrating United States and opposition while playing to the gallery.

China has got every reason to feel satisfied

Foreign policy experts opine that survival of Imran would have been a welcome relief to China which unsuccessfully tried to save his chair especially after PM accused America of conniving with Pak opposition to remove him. Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi had assured Imran if America was behind the opposition move then he will get full support from his country, but in vain.

At the same time, PM resolved to strengthen the ties between China and Pakistan thereby using all possible adjectives to convince the Dragon about continuity of the dependence on China. It may be recalled that Shehbaz, as an able administrator and chief minister of Punjab, had executed several projects related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative, which had earned appreciation from the outgoing Chinese consul general who gave credit for accelerating and utilising the funds with speed. Interestingly, Shehbaz had directly negotiated some projects with China when his three time PM, Nawaz Sahrif was prime minister, which speaks about his past equation with China. China may derive some solace from the past conduct and relations of new PM who will have no alternative but to keep the Dragon in good humor as Pakistan is deep in China’s debt liabilities.

Experts feel that unstable Pakistan is not in the interest of India hence Supreme Court’s verdict has acted as savior of democracy by upholding the tenets of Pakistan constitution which is a good news for any democratic nation in the world. India must welcome the democratic transfer of power, supremacy of judiciary and non intervention of army which will be key element in formulating of foreign and security policy of new government.

(K. S. TOMAR is a national columnist, and political analyst based in Shimla, India)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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