COVID corollaries and the flood consequences have further compounded the economic insolvency and volatile politics in Pakistan; to a point of no return. November will be a deciding month.
Genera Bajwa’s second term will come to close. He is supposed to been able to get sums from US and Arab countries to the respite of state.
Back home his recent visit to overseas will weigh heavy on his decisions. Before he leaves his office, he has three immediate decisions to make. First, who would be his successor, for there is no consensus emerging? In a hush, amidst conjectures many generals have been given promotions and new postings.
His second priority is to bring Pakistan out from present political peril. PTI has put the condition to declare election for any truce with PDM. Its politics of dissent with huge social media campaign and involvement of youth is bothersome for the establishment to reconcile with the politics of dynasty, as an alternative.
And third, priority is to reshape financial and foreign policy of the country, so that to be back to international attention for constructive reasons, where approach towards India is also on watch.
Time is fast narrowing down for the powerful establishment of Pakistan to take decisions. Otherwise the moments are ripening for angry and short streets protest throughout the country.
General Bajwa’s recent American visit has not cleared the fog. There is an on-going effort to reset the relations with US. China is the prime worry for US. US needs a client state to have a subservient state in Asia, as it’s in a strategic alliance to have watch on China. Pakistan fits in it. It has been in the past, playing double edged role.
The role that was not open, but it clandestinely helped both China and US against each other. In return Pakistan would use it as the pooled edge against India. Imran attempted to end it. He openly opposed client relationship with US and in guise loomed to be in China’s lap.
This not only estranged the establishment, but it also cost Khan’s government. China did not come to his rescue, for China despite an all-weather friend of Pakistan has a problem of huge trust deficit. Imran has achieved a cult to be tamed.
His existential puzzles of incoherent policies keep his friends even guessing. Imran would be close to his religious constituency in his utterances and in the same breath would pronounce closeness to anti-religious China.
There is inherent contradiction in his personality. His boyish charm of west and its professionalism clashes with the imperatives of Pakistan’s nationalism on religiosity.
This prime contradiction openly announced does not sell well outside. They find it hard to believe Imran Khan, who is proving to be a person of exceptional tempers. With no consistent rhythm to his politics, he has a cult image in public.
He is unpredictable to the establishment. They hardly are comfortable with his unpredictable stances. However, he has become a cult for his people, especially for women and youth, who in multitudes come out in streets on his call. Imran is their Kaptan and Kaptan is supreme. His long march call is looked-for.
While Sharifs have regained some space in wooing back the establishment, yet many in army high-ups are not in favour of dynasty continuity. There corruption cases though not proven are being reminded and refreshed by captain in his every speech. So establishment is in a fix to take any decision.
There is a tacit debate to reset foreign policy that could be conducive for economy as well as for well-being of Pakistan. Many among establishment feel that war with India, direct or indirect, including bleeding proposition or proxy deductions have only made it poorer.
Pakistan’s Post Nehru policies against India were openly anti India centric, presenting it as a country against Muslims and drawing plans that would infuse inferiority syndrome among Muslims in India. It did socially quiver India, but Pakistan got severely affected in terms of the draining of resources.
The external debt increased and inner stability weakened. Its golden years, after 65 wars with India, came to end. This realisation among its intellectuals and emerging middle class is on rise. Pakistan federalism moving round its strong centre, controlling the satellite diverse regions has weakened with the recent amendments.
Regional politics has emerged round ethnic loyalties and discontenting politics. The new middle class is more individualistic and believing in better life chances. The conventional Panjabi hegemony controlling resources and powerful in army finds it hard to make a paradigm shift.
They pretend to be in talk; talk to India but its thousand cuts lure remains intact. The obsession of Kashmir has ruined Pakistan and that conventional elite class in Pakistan takes that brunt on Muslims of India, so that they could justify their past of seventy years. It is more of psychological than notional now.
The world is different now, global village is multiply connected. It does not rely on one source. The boundaries are invisibly exposed. Nothing remains hidden, as was the case before the advent of this century. Boundaries were hard to transcend and falsehood was easy to be propagated. The new social movements are transnational movements. It manifests in globalism.
The environmental concerns, gender parity and religious solidarity are such movements, as find international circulation through virtual media campaign. The old territorial contestations have receded in background. The new concerns are volatility of power centres in the world. President Biden’s recent statement describing ‘Pakistan one of the most dangerous nations of the world’ recalls for reengagement with Pakistan.
General Bajwa understands it. His recent speech perhaps was hinting to this need for the change in mind-set. How to go with it? It is his predicament. Sharifs and Zardaris, if not declared convicted, still are tainted in public eye. They are tested feudal lords, who own resources and have riches outside Pakistan.
Imran Khan continuously talks about it. They at best can keep statuesque retentive. Imran to the establishment is a conundrum of contradictions. They fear his call for long march and show of street power, which essentially is a notice to the establishment.
Therefore, neutrals are no longer neutrals; Imran has to face foreign funding case in courts as well. In case he cannot be cultivated and there erupts violence in the long march, the uncertainties loom large on the dispensation.
Time is slipping and there is yet no certainty whether Imran and his colleagues in PTI will join Parliament and wait for elections in 2023? Backdoor channels are open and President Alvi is supposed to be the main negotiator.
He is a bridge between the establishment and PTI. PTI means Imran Khan. Imran wants Army first to commit for election date. That is the bottle neck.
The political uncertainties have been complicated by doubtful judiciary and unnatural establishment. PDM is an amalgam of colliding partners, glues all against mercurial Khan.
Such experimentations are inherently faulty. It encourages corruption and prompts chaos. It is what Pakistan has turned out to be Imran versus rest. His cult has emerged. Imran has won almost all interim elections, one versus rest.
Opposition, including the present establishment is bent upon showing him the door. Let us see who has the Last laugh. Will history repeat itself or it would be a break with the past?
India cannot ignore these changes. Unbridled cultism and trust deficit in conventional parties do not augur well in democratic plural India. Empowerment of politics that takes care of people’s problems in a transparent mode with accountability should be the prime concern of our political elites, irrespective of political affiliations.
Political euphuism without reformation and goodwill of middle classes does not last long. India should also take leaf from this chequered trajectory of Pakistan.
We need to strengthen our inclusive pluralism and plurality of thoughts in institutions, so that it is reflective on television talk shows which otherwise are noisy. This alone will guarantee a sustained healthy politics in plural India.
Ashok Kaul, Emeritus professor at Banaras Hindu University
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.