By Mano Ratwatte –
The newly elected Pakistani PM, the flamboyant, albeit a bit controversial Cambridge educated, cricketing icon, former Playboy who was married three times (like President Trump) before finding conservatism, Imran Khan ran on a platform of anti-corruption in a land torn by war.
Pakistan is being torn between radical Islamic extremist forces and moderates as a spill out from the terrible war in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s military plays a very active role in its political realm. Unlike India, or Sri Lanka, Pakistan has been relatively unstable since its creation and no democratically elected Prime Minster was ever allowed to complete a term of office. Their military plays the most important role; in a way like how the Thai military controls its governments and a coup is successful only if it is approved or at least tacitly okayed by their revered king.
Does Pakistan border on being a failed state now because of the trap it laid for itself during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979? It became the biggest conduit for weapons and training for all sorts of Afghan, and other Jihadi forces including Bin Laden, that the US sponsored to fight a holy war against the Soviets who lost and withdrew with their tails tucked in 1989. Then, after its decision to ally with US after 9.11 terrorist attacks when General Musharaff was President it became an active state trying to juggle extremist forces and its strong relations with the US: their biggest weapons supplier to fight extremism on their borders as well. Sri Lankans will recall how he flew back from Sri Lanka and overthrew the democratically elected government on allegations of corruption.
Imran Khan, the cricketing legend also is pragmatic and sees no end to war and the bleeding of his nation’s resources. He gave a great interview on TV recently. I transcribed it after watching it. I think there is a lot of powerful sentiments and hopes of the Pakistani people, he has expressed below.
My fear is that extremist Jihadi forces, or foreign forces trying to oust him if he keeps to his principles and does what is right by Pakistan, and not by foreign powers. I also look forward to him trying to genuinely reduce tensions between his country and its arch rival India: in fact Pakistan can learn a lot from India about trying to become a secular nation. If tensions are reduced between the 2 nuclear weapons armed neighbors, and if they can genuinely address the problems in Kashmir, he will have achieved a lot. Having had very good Pakistani friends, students, and roommates as well, I can easily say that their sore point is always India; having lost 3 wars so badly to India, they yearn for a day they can beat Indian in anything: cricket, hockey, war or anything else. Indians don’t suffer from that inferiority complex about Pakistan and usually smirk when they talk about Pakistan. Imagine an open border in Punjab for families separated by the tragicevents of the partition, and its implications for free trade if mutual suspicions and biases can be reduced.
Also if Imran Khan can finally silence the guns, and stop the extremist terrorist Jihadis and reach and honorable peace, Pakistan will be much better place than now and even enjoy an economic boom like Sri Lanka since 2009 when that war ended with the military vanquishing of the LTTE despite pressures from Western powers. The West wanted to rescue the LTTE leadership to manipulate and seek leverage to their advantage and theirs wasn’t a concern only for the tragic number of civilian casualties.
Below is the entirety of his comments I was able to transcribe. I hope Sri Lanka’s leaders read it too.
Imran Khan’s speech
“We will only be an ally of the US in peace. it will not be an ally in war. 50,000 Pakistanis have died. This country has been radicalized. We are more insecure than ever before. There is something like 80 Billion Dollars that this coutry has lost in war; US aid is about 20 Billion Dollars.
Country is sinking into poverty, into chaos; the state is getting weaker. There is a consensus in Pakistan there is no military solution; therefore, we will look for a political solution. We would want to be an ally in PEACE with the US; it is time to give peace a chance for both Pakistan and the US. We had awful fighting. And if peace means that you are anti US, then people do not understand. Unfortunately some people in the US think, if you do not do whatever the US tells you to do, you are anti US.
I believe it is time for the US for US to make Pakistan a friend, rather than a client state, a hired gun which is paid money to do its bidding. I think that time is over; Pakistan is past that stage. The country can no longer can take this war anymore. And I think for US also, they should also hope this election brings a partner in peace and US needs a peace partner to exit from Afghanistan” : Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan. A Cambridge graduate.
I dearly wish Sri Lankan leaders will read the above and think. US toppled the Iranian democratically elected government in 1953 because it didn’t do their (and British colonials’) bidding and Iran took charge of its petroleum industry. What was the end result?
And the tempestuous President Trump has created fear and instability along with economic hardship for many nations with the new set of sanctions and boycotts imposed by it. Will Sri Lanka suffer as a result of these sanctions? Sometimes people wonder whether the only reason Trump nullifies so many agreements and even environmental regulations enacted during Obama’s time only out of spite and visceral hatred, and not because of any logical, military, national security or economic reasons.
Should Imran Khan also fear Pakistan’s extremely powerful military which has far greater control of Pakistan’s political process than any other nation in South Asia? Rumour has it that they backed his candidacy this time because they too are tired of corrupt politicians.
Will foreign powers do what they did in Egypt if Imran does not toe the line? After encouraging democracy, it immediately scuttled the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government which was alarmingly turning too conservative and oppressive. Do you hear any western nation demanding free and fair elections there again after overthrowing the MB civilian government? General Sisi “won” his free election with 97% of the vote. That is like how Saddam Hussein won elections too. Remember Sri Lanka’s alleged veering towards China triggered off two very powerful nations in 2015 which helped engineer a successful democratic regime change. On the other side, you can see how mute a certain powerful nation is about human rights violations and large number of deaths of civilians in the tragic proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen; recently a bomb made in a western nation was dropped on a bus full of school children by Aeroplanes of a close Oil rich ally of this western nation. There was not a peep by that powerful nation. Queer huh? Perhaps the US leaving the UN Human Rights council means they will no longer impose double standards? One for their pet clients who buy tens of Billions dollars worth of deadly weapons and another for the empty pocket nations like Sri Lanka? Isn’t it high time for some extremely powerful nations to stop toppling regimes violently, via coups or even democratically if they do not toe their line or become their errand boys?