As Pakistan cricketing legend Imran Khan commences his second innings, as the next Pakistani prime minister, there is much talk about where he is likely to lead the nation. Although much has already been written about the charismatic Khan, Imran has already won accolades for his determination to capture the prize of becoming Pakistan’s prime minister after a hard, dangerous struggle. But then again, he has always been a fighter. Khan’s personal fight-back to snatch the political skipper’s cap of Pakistan from far more seasoned players hailing from the politically powerful Punjab and Sindh is reminiscent of Pakistan snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the 1992 Cricket World Cup under his captaincy. In the political sphere, defeating well entrenched Sharif and Bhutto parties in the overall tallies for the National Assembly is no mean achievement.
Khan’s televised speech a day after his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf won the largest number of seats in the Pakistani general elections did give some indications of the policies and programmes he intends to follow, both domestically and in foreign affairs. His adulatory remarks about China are any Pakistani government’s compulsions, now that they have been entrapped in a serious debt crisis by an assertive Beijing. Promptly, China too announced USD 2 billion in grants to Pakistan to tide over the latter’s current economic woes. It also helps Khan that Pakistan’s deep state, to perpetuate their own comforts, have hardly bothered that their nation is drifting to becoming a colony of the Chinese. They are thus complicit in this endeavour and will ensure that Khan continues with their policy of abject surrender to China. The latter, fully conversant with the faults and foibles of Pakistan’s deep state, know that their hold over Imran Khan is courtesy the Pakistan Army and thus they will continue to humour the latter.
As regards the US and the forthcoming visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pakistan, Imran Khan is more than aware that his nation is currently facing the worst patch in relations with their erstwhile mentor, financial and military supporter. Thus, he is likely to make all efforts to cosy up to the Americans. Notwithstanding Pakistan’s unfailing propensity to keep the pot boiling in neighbouring fratricidal violence driven Afghanistan, it will, as frequently in the past, remind the US of it being a vital factor in pacifying Afghanistan. However, President Trump, with his no-nonsense policy as regards US detractors is not likely to give Pakistan an easy time. But Khan is likely to counter this by strengthening his alliances with the Chinese and even the Russians. Regrettably, the US in its current myopic anti-Russia slant is giving birth to newer anti-US alignments in the region.
Khan has already been accorded and, not surprisingly, encouraging responses from Russia, Afghanistan and Iran. However, he faces difficult choices when it comes to India. Strategic analysts and the general public all across the sub-continent have been feverishly pondering to unravel the future contours of India-Pakistan relations under the new prime minister in Islamabad. That every fresh face brings some hope to the traditionally vexed relationship between these two nations is fully understandable. The majority of analysts in India, including that of the media, generally do not sound optimistic about any glaring improvements emerging in the India- Pakistan relationship in the immediate future.
A nation’s core interests do not radically alter with a change in government. Yet, history is also replete with events and personalities changing the destinies of their nations by breaking the shackles of the past and doing what is best for their nation, displaying statesmanship and courage even at the risk of their lives.
Will Imran Khan, who comprehends the problems of batting on bad pitches and also appreciates the dividends of peace, as he has stated during his visits to India in the recent years, be the statesman Pakistan has long awaited? Will he send the Pakistan Army back to the barracks and forego terrorism as an extension of state policy? Will the new dispensation endeavour to establish peace and harmonious relations with its much larger and powerful western neighbour, as Khan has professed many times earlier? Only time will tell.
As is customary, the newly elected Pakistani prime minister will be meeting his nation’s oft-declared bête- noire, Indian PM Narendra Modi, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in September in New York. It is well on the cards that the Indian Prime Minister will extend a hand of friendship to the Pakistan Prime Minister. Left on his own, however remote be that possibility, Imran Khan would like to reciprocate equally, as many people in the subcontinent desire. At 65 years in age, he understands the many fault lines his nation suffers from and the dangers of continually confronting a far more powerful India.
We in India can surely wish Imran Khan all the best in his new innings as Pakistan’s prime minister. Perhaps his personal popularity may enthuse him to at least strive somewhat to rein in his notorious deep state for the good of his nation and the region at large. A tall order but worth a shot!
Lt Gen. Kamal Davar is a distinguished soldier and veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars and was the founder Director General of the Defence Intelligence Agency, raised after the Kargil conflict. After retirement, he writes and lectures on security, terrorism and allied issues in the national media and many forums. At present he is President of the Delhi Forum For Strategic Studies. This article first appeared in dnaindia.com of 2 Sep 2018. Views expressed are personal.