The recent elections in Pakistan had all the glitz, glamour and the trappings of the cricket IPL played in India. The teams were the various parties,The recent elections in Pakistan had all the glitz, glamour and the trappings of the cricket IPL played in India. The teams were the various parties,vying to put their candidate in the Prime Minister’s ‘gaddi’ and the bookies were rampant and as active as they can ever get with such a colourful array of participants. There was the over-arching ‘Godfather’ (like the BCCI) overlooking the proceedings but, “Hey Presto!” it wasn’t the election commission as is the norm but rather, the Pakistan Army! Indeed, it turned out to be the Third Umpire too, deciding who was out and who was not! The colourful flags, the noise, the music, the cheering, the whole ‘sab-cheez’ was not an unfamiliar sight to the teeming millions on this side of the border. Was ‘Match Fixing’ far behind? Apparently not.
Given such a canvas, was there a doubt as to who would be the winner between a hard core politician, a rookie politician or a cricketer? The swashbuckling ‘Swinger’ (in more ways than one), Imran Khan, was not only the poster boy of his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) but also of the elections. While his charisma and image on and off the cricket field did not immediately manifest onto his political career which started in 1996, Imran Khan has slowly but steadily climbed the ladder of Pakistan politics, rung by rung. A fiery orator with a penchant for anti-establishment rhetoric when in opposition, he adopted a rather hardliner approach towards the USA which does not auger well, now that he is in power. Of course, the recent nipping of the $300 million military aid by the US government was a process already in the oven by the time he arrived on the scene as the Prime Minister.
Imran Khan’s rather prominent inclination towards the Pakistan Army was probably the clinching factor that determined his assurance to the coveted post. With the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attempting to take a hard stand against the Army, it was but a matter of time before they had him and his daughter arrested for criminal misdemeanour, critically, just prior to the elections. It was a judicial coup, clearly executed by the Army. There is no gainsaying that the Pakistan polls were ‘managed to convenience’. With barely 53% voter turnout, Army presence everywhere (3,70,000 troops deployed in the garb of providing security), the ineffectiveness of democracy in Pakistan lay exposed. It is historical that the ‘deep state’ has not allowed any political party to flourish or gain so much popularity as to do away with the shadow of the Pakistan Army or the ISI. Possibly the most disturbing factor in these recent elections was the permission that was granted for terrorist organisations like the Lashkar- e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa ( JuD) to participate. Their presence signalled hand-holding and collusion with the Army and that is not a good sign for the new incumbent, especially as he makes his foray into international diplomacy for the first time.
The new Prime Minister has a lot on his plate as he starts his innings. He is faced with a line-up of “pace”/“spin”/“swing”/“left arm”/“right arm” bowlers who he will have to overcome and make his score count. Pakistan’s sagging economy is a major cause for worry. The Pakistan rupee has collapsed and the foreign exchange reserves are low. The huge monetary debt built up against China in its pursuance of the CPEC will be difficult to repay. A loan from the IMF, in the present circumstances, appears distant. Imran Khan will, perforce, have to make compromises on his security and foreign policies. He will need to make positive moves towards the Afghan peace process and attempt to curb Pakistan’s links with terrorist organisations. Alongside, having brought him into the seat of power, the Army, as the significant controller of policy in the country, has become stronger than before. Not willing to be in power and face accountability on essential commodities owed to the common man, is a matter of choice for the Army. It is the power without responsibility which will cement their position.
Imran has played many a game (of cricket) against India. His overtures on the field and off the field towards the Indian players has enamoured him to them. But, come the start of the game, he has been ruthless in his execution and pursuit of victory. Do we see this translate to his diplomatic disposition towards India? I think we need to treat him with caution, given the ‘control mechanism’ whose sole existence and projection hinges on its attitude towards India. Let us continue to believe that Pakistan’s economic, moral and military support to the proxy war against India will not change. The “Sidhu Hug” is a googly. Let us not be taken in by the “Doosra”.
An alumnus of NDA and DSSC, Air Mshl Sumit Mukerji has served the IAF as a fighter pilot with distinction. He has commanded three units, a MiG-29 Sqn, a MiG-25 SR Sqn and TACDE (considered the ‘Top Gun’ school of the IAF) and also served as the Air Attaché in Washington DC. He retired in 2011 as the AOC-in-C of Southern Air Command.