Imran Khan has emerged victorious in Pakistan elections. There were early signs of his triumph. The corruption of the Sharifs, the boredom with the two traditional ruling families, Imran Khan's clean incorruptible public image and an easy connection between the language of Imran and the masses, all made possible that the next Prime Minister would be Imran Khan. What a glorious life history, a great subject for a wonderful biography!; from a bowler and captain in charge of a team of eleven odd men to the Prime Minister of a nuclear power with nearly twenty crore population, the journey is remarkable. The indefatigable grit and determination, in the face of recurring personal marital problems, are inspiring. His charisma remained undiminished. However, keeping that all aside, what can he do about the all-important question Kashmir? Will he go beyond the traditional roles played by the leadership in the two countries or recycle the old statements and postures?
Imran and Kashmir
There are two strands visible in his thinking about Kashmir. One is about the effects of militarisation. He has consistently argued that militarisation of civilian areas is counterproductive to peace and stability. The longer the militarisation of civilian population the deeper the effects on civic life. He reiterated the same in the speech soon after being announced victorious in the elections. There is not a grain of untruth in this assertion. The militarisation of Kashmir has been anything but productive. He has adopted a similar line with regard to Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, previously known as FATA, now merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Just like America could not bring peace to Afghanistan with army and drones, or Pakistan could not bring peace only with the gun in FATA, the same is true for Kashmir, or any other place in the world, where militarisation is seen as the way to peace and development. He continuously advocated dialogue over Afghanistan and FATA. Eventually, the problems have to be settled over the four corners of the table and not through drones and Caspers.
Second, when asked about the Musharraf Formula, he was clear that it does not matter whose Formula it is, he would go with it if there is consensus and if it is workable. Unlike his predecessor whose hate for Musharraf and anything that the latter did was unambiguous, Imran Khan is open minded on that. Although he is on record to have said that if there is one thing over Musharraf may be hanged, it is his military action on Lal Masjid in Islamabad. If he is convinced by his counsellors and if the military also gives a go-ahead, then it is probable that he would push for the same, given his long term commitment to sustainable peace in the sub-continent. On cricket field he has witnessed the bad blood that Kashmir has created between the two nations. And there is a reason why he may go ahead with the Musharraf Formula.
The mainstay of the Musharraf Formula is the demilitarisation. The latter is the starting of the Formula. The four points specified by Musharraf begin with the demilitarisation of Kashmir on either side of the border followed by other steps leading to some kind of joint management. This meets with the long term thinking of Imran Khan with regard to the conflict areas. So there is a fare chance that he might go with the idea of Musharraf. Demilitarisation was also proposed by Owen Dixon, and is a long term demand in the Indian Administered Kashmir. However, no relief is in sight as militarisation has penetrated into the deepest recesses of society and created a stake for many in its continuation including the military-industrial complex in the two countries.
Chance for Imran
As a cricketer he was known for withstanding pressure and trying innovative measures. It needs to be seen whether he can bring forth the same qualities in case of Kashmir. Kashmir conflict may probably turn out to be the toughest wicket for him to bat on. However, if he manages to take risks, the solution to Kashmir may be the greatest cup he has ever won, and will certainly take him to new heights. With the kind of misery inflicted on people by the conflict, the solution will be equal to a hundred Shaukat Khanums, for the cancer of conflict has ravaged generations over the last seventy years. A treatment formula for it is worth scores of charitable hospitals.
Many critics, mostly from India, argue that he will not go beyond the military brief over Kashmir, because the "Establishment" has pushed him forward. The former may be true but the latter is unfair to the long and painstaking struggle of this man. The Establishment may be soft on him but with the reports of the international poll observers pouring in, it is certainly untrue that the military used its men and machinery to tilt the scales in his favour. Yes, it will temper his foreign policy ambitions especially on Kashmir, but that is equally true in case of India. In the latter the pressure with regard to Kashmir from the deep state of India is no less intense and no executive can cross the red-lines set by the military.
Given the fact who he is, and the style of his operations, it is clear that he will try hard to push for some kind of peace mechanism but the problem is way too deep. However, with a bit of luck anything is possible including a solution which has eluded so far. After the oath- taking he will get into the business of politicking, and Kashmir will be eagerly waiting for any relief. For the domestic politics of Pakistan, Imran Khan is a breath of fresh air, what with all the dramatic and unprecedented announcements like converting the PM House into a University, but the real challenge will be from the economy and the foreign policy, especially relations with India.