rime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi have recently made some startling statements, provoking outrage, resentment, alarm and even dismay at home and abroad. But they remain unrepentant.
Imran Khan thinks Pakistani women invite rape by spurning purdah or dressing immodestly. It doesn’t occur to him that when children, both boys and girls, are raped, it has nothing to do with the clothes they wear; that when women are raped, it isn’t about lust for women out of purdah but about power, domination and exploitation, whether to uphold male-dominated society’s notions of “honour” and “revenge” or impose conquest. Indeed, that is why, from ancient times, armies have practiced rape as a potent weapon of war and captive women have been paraded as a measure of bounty. That’s why it is outrageous of Imran Khan to accuse rape victims of “asking” to be violated.
Imran Khan also says that if the Kashmir issue with India were to be “resolved” somehow, Pakistan would not need to retain its nuclear weapons. This is a gratuitous serving. Since the Kashmir issue is never going to be “resolved” (in Pakistan’s favour), thus ensuring a running conflict, the nukes are here to stay and even grow. But even if a compromise “resolution” were ever to be negotiated, the sources of competition and conflict that fuel the regional politics of state power, hegemony, national pride and religio-civilizational identity would remain. Indeed, this view is as foolish as the one expressed by President Asif Zardari in 2008-09 when he offered to accept India’s stance on a no-first nuclear strike agreement between the two countries, quite oblivious of the core plank of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent policy as the significantly weaker state.
Mr Khan also believes that Osama Bin Laden was a “martyr” when the global state system, including Pakistan at the UN, had classified him as a dangerous international terrorist. In fact, when OBL was “taken out” by US Marines in May 2011 from a “safe” house in Abbottabad, the COAS and President of Pakistan were both quick to “congratulate” President Obama for his great achievement! Today, when one of the biggest threats to Pakistan comes from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan (an ally of Al Qaeda), it is shocking to hear the prime minister of Pakistan extolling their great leader and hero as a “martyr”.
Like his leader, Shah Mahmood Qureshi is also fast becoming an international embarrassment. “I’ll pass”, he mutters grimly when he cannot say whether OBL was a martyr or terrorist. This, when he is barely out of the international spotlight following accusations of anti-semitism on CNN because he is unable to tell the difference between Jews and Zionists. Mr Qureshi is also sparring with the Afghan Intelligence chief even as Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, is rushing about the region seeking a power-sharing formula to allay Kabul’s fears about Pakistan’s support for a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. This reminds one of the blistering attack by Mr Qureshi not so long ago on the Mohammad Bin Salman regime in Saudi Arabia for not supporting Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir in the OIC, only to be followed by the hectic diplomacy of General Bajwa once again to limit damage so that Saudi largesse can continue to keep Pakistan afloat.
The dilemma for PTI leaders is obvious. On the one hand, the government is desperate to get into the FATF white list and anxious for international support to revive its economy. This is why it is wooing international finance institutions like the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, etc., and countries like the USA, EU and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, either because of the Miltablishment’s national security doctrines regarding India and Afghanistan or because of the anti-secular, Islamic-nationalist, mindset of its urban, civil-military middle-class constituencies, it is obliged to take an anti-West stance. That is why OBL becomes an “anti-imperialist” martyr, all Jews are Zionists who own the Western media and Palestine is a Muslim or Islamic cause because PTI’s domestic and expatriate constituency has been brainwashed over the decades to believe so.
Much the same sort of problem arises in Pakistan’s handling of the crisis in Afghanistan. On the one hand, there is no love lost between Pakistan and various secular Kabul regimes because Islamabad has long supported Islamic favourites (Mujahideen or Taliban) in Afghanistan But now it finds itself having to pull back from a full throttled Taliban seizure of power in Kabul that will likely arouse a blowback from America and the international community whose money and weapons are coveted by Islamabad. In fact, the prospect of renewed civil war and splintering of Afghanistan into ethnic power blocs supported by neighbouring countries is unsettling, not least because it is a recipe for further Indian leverage and meddling, renewed cross border terrorism by the TTP and Al Qaeda in Pakistan and a wave of refugees that will overwhelm our poverty stricken state. This would explain why Imran Khan is so definite in rejecting America’s demand for a base inside Pakistan from which to monitor and bomb its Taliban enemies in Afghanistan even as the Miltablishment would like nothing more than for American drones flying from, or over, Pakistan to target the TTP and Al Qaeda.
The rise of anti-Miltablishment Pushtun nationalism in FATA and Balochistan is a prime example of how Pakistan’s foreign policy dilemmas are being mismanaged by the PTI regime to crowd out domestic political consensus and stability. Tens of thousands of sullen Pashtuns turned out this week to mourn the mysterious death (murder, they said) of Usman Kakar, an anti-Miltablishment Pashtun nationalist, while the PM and FM were making sexist, anti-semitic comments and the PTI and PMLN were hurling budget documents at each other in Parliament. Never mind that only a few days earlier, the KP police had fired upon protesting Pashtun nationalists, killing three, injuring dozens and arresting scores. Never mind, too, that pro-Taliban, Pakistani Pashtun lashkars in Balochistan are getting ready to cross the border and fight alongside their Afghan Pashtun Taliban brethren while the Pashtun TTP in Afghanistan is gearing up to send terrorist squads into Pakistan. Such are the burdens of history.