ne should not expect too much from the change of regime in Islamabad. Former Cricketer Imran Khan is all set to become the next Prime Minister with his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Party emerging as the single largest party that needs two dozen-odd members to reach the majority mark to form the government.
Before coming to any inference on the future relationship with India, a brief recount of Pakistan’s political history is needed. Ever since the birth of the nation in 1947, Pakistan has never seen a healthy democracy. The Army in the past has overthrown elected governments taking over the command of the nation either as Chief Martial Law Administrator or as President.
Pakistan is not a theocratic state but it is akin to a system of governance that is dominated by religion, Islam. Theocracy is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God. In Pakistan, it is not priests but the Army Junta that rules the country either by proxy or directly. Generally, the Pakistani Army Chief is considered all power. This is not a fact or a reality in that country. The Army Chief draws his power from the Corps Commanders headed by officers of Lieutenant General Rank. There are nine Operational Corps Commanders who lend power to the chief. Without the support of the Corps Commanders, the Army Chief in Pakistan is a toothless tiger.
The last time the Army took over power was in 1999 when the then Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf staged a bloodless coup overthrowing elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sheriff and assuming power and later by anointing himself as President of Pakistan in 2001. Without going into details of the coup, it should be mentioned here that Nawaz Sheriff wanted to improve relations with India. The then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reciprocated by leading a high profile delegation to Lahore travelling from Delhi in a bus.
Musharraf did not like the bonhomie between Pakistani Prime Minister Sheriff and the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee. Pakistani Army infiltrated into Indian soil in Kargil in 1999 soon after the Bus Yatra of Vajpayee that led to short duration war between India and Pakistan. The Indian Army pushed back the Pakistani infiltrators and regained the ground, thus, winning the war once again against Pakistan.
The infiltration by Pakistani Army was without the knowledge and approval of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sheriff. When Musharraf got the air that he was likely to be replaced he staged coup and Nawaz Sheriff.
The Army in Pakistan has never been in favour of an improved relationship between India and Pakistan. When Sheriff returned to power in 2013 as the Prime Minister, he made some attempts to improve ties with India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reciprocated and even made an unscheduled and surprise visit in December 2015 to Lahore by landing there to greet Pakistan Prime Minister Sheriff. It was not digested by the Pakistan Army. The result, the ISI let loose more terrorists attack our Army and Security forces base in Kashmir. The terrorists also attacked forward base of Indian Air Force in Pathankot. Later, Sheriff was charged for corruption and jailed. His Party lost the just-concluded election. The Pakistan Army is capable of influencing the course of justice.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Party leader should take guards before batting since he is not a batsman but a bowler. In his new innings, it is Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Bajwa who will bowl, delivering bouncers and swings to Imran Khan.
Imran Khan’s initial statements are not surprising. It is customary for any winner in polls likely to head his country to say good words and raise hopes. He has spoken of a good relation with India with emphasis on trade and also a good relation with Afghanistan. Both India and Afghanistan are facing the heat from the ISI sponsored terrorist attacks.
Reports emanating from Pakistan indicate that Imran had the backing of the Army in elections. Whether the Pakistan Poll was rigged or not is a matter of Pakistani Political Parties to settle. For India, we have to watch closely and carefully if the new regime is able to stop exporting terror to India. If terrorists from across the border continue to strike in Kashmir, it will prove, yet to be sworn as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s surrender to the Army in order to survive as Prime Minister. It will be nothing but a façade of the elected government in Islamabad. Imran Khan is not known to take a stand on political matters that would weaken his position vis a vis the Pakistan Army.
Cricketers in India and Pakistan Active Now
The Cricket Lobby in India and Pakistan suddenly has become active after seeing a former Pakistan Cricketer becoming Prime Minister. Some Indian Cricketers are hoping to revive Cricket match between the two countries. In Pakistan too, the Cricketers would lobby to revive the game between India and Pakistan.
But any possibility of revival of Cricket matches between the two countries would depend on how the new regime behaves and act instead of making statements to normalise relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. So far India is concerned, we will wait and watch before taking a step forward or extending a hand of friendship to Imran Khan. Also to be watched is the conduct of the Hurriyat Conference in the days to come. For Imran Khan like any other Pakistani leader ‘Kashmir remains the core issue between India and Pakistan’.