by Manzoor Ahmed
Taken off their classrooms and homes, school children, braving inclement weather, will be in forefront of protests in Pakistan. Through these street slogans, it hopes to highlight its case before the world community whose response to India’s action on its own territory in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh has ranged from cold and indifferent to at the best, lukewarm.
The lead is being given in the form of formal announcements that read like diktat by Army’s public relations man, Major General Asif Ghafoor. The khaki stamp on the campaign is easily discernible.
While trying hard to drum up support abroad, the civil-military leadership is focusing on the domestic audience to give them something to take to the streets and shout their hearts out, and thus, make them forget the economic misery, the lack of relief during monsoons as in Karachi and other cities, the spread of diseases and much worse.
Irony lies in the fact that Pakistan, with its own sordid record on human rights, wants to use its human rights activists and those abroad to talk of human rights in India. And with its own record of ill-treating religious and ethnic minorities, it wants to drum up a campaign against India on this score.
The tone is set by Prime Minister Imran Khan who has been attacking not so much India’s foreign policy or even its military: he has been attacking India’s internal politics.
With its own record fomenting and financing terrorism and its export with which the world is much too familiar, Pakistan wants to talk of India engaging in terrorism hoping to neutralize the charges against itself. The world is not buying it and the sword of Damocles in the form of FATF censure is hanging on Pakistan’s head.
There is little doubt that not just the civil leadership under Prime Minister Imran Khan, but its mentors in the military are at a loss to how to react to the Indian action. Their impotent rage has got them to behave like a chicken whose head is cut-off.
It is impotent because the world community is not responding the way Islamabad would like to. Pakistan is angry at everyone. It is angry that US President Donald Trump has realized the futility and has stopped talking of mediation on the Kashmir issue, when Indian Prime Ministe Narendra modi categorically denied any third party mediation during G-7 meet.
It is upset that after Imran Khan’s friend Zulfi Bukhari led a violent protest before the Indian High Commission in London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson telephoned his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi and apologized for the violence. Johnson also dashed Pakistani hope of the Westminster taking a belligerent stand on the Kashmir issue.
Pakistan is of course unhappy with its “Muslin brethren” and alleges that they are guided by “economic interests” and ‘realpolitik’ which makes them tilt towards India. This is insulting to the Gulf nations in particular that have good ties with India, irrespective of their Islamic affinity with Pakistan.
The unkindest cut in Pakistan’s angry moment, has come from the UAE that, of all the times and much to Pakistan’s chagrin, gave the highest civilian award of the country to Modi. Dawn editorial (August 28, 2019) has protested at UAE Crown Prince Zayed ‘garlanding’ Modi at the award ceremony.
Khan’s address to the nation, full of fury, has been criticized. Analyst Zahid Husain writes in Dawn newspaper: “There was nothing new and substantive in his, yet another, rambling address to the nation. As usual it was an unprepared speech by Mr Khan on an extremely sensitive national policy matter.”
All federal ministers are enrolled in the Khan/army led campaign. Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has been snubbed twice in trying to ‘internationalize’ the Kashmir issue. She wrote to the UN demanding that it strip Indian actor Priyanka Chopra of her title as the UN’s goodwill ambassador for Peace. The UNESCO wrote back to her that Chopra could express her views in her personal capacity on any subject.
Since the Khan Government has made little breakthrough among the world community, the political opposition is vicariously happy. This is despite the daily arrests, court trials and imprisonment of many of the opposition leaders. Nawaz Sharif (as also his daughter Maryam) is in jail and so is PPP chief and the country’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, along with sister Faryal Talpur.
Khan was livid when Bilawal Bhutto said in parliament that India had the Pakistani leadership napping. Khan had “failed to anticipate” the Indian action.
More and more action against opposition leaders has got analyst comment that Khan is doing a disservice to the nation at a critical juncture by persecuting the opposition when he should be seeking their help to forge solidarity against India.
Although Khan declared a “Kashmiri nation” and appointed himself its ‘ambassador’, questions persist whether all the Pakistani protests and diplomatic moves would at all succeed in making India reverse its course. People are asking “if all this is worthwhile.”
And when Khan declared that he would “go to any length” to support the Kashmir’s ‘cause’, a few sane voices are cautioning against generating a war-like popular mood. Instead of sabre-rattling, people should be made aware that war with India is not an option.
Now Khan has hinted (likely to be announced on Friday) at stopping Indian over-flights and use of land route for trade with Afghanistan. The former would cost flying more, but Pakistan would also be at a loss. The closure of land route would only mean more sufferings to the people of a landlocked Afghanistan, exposing Pakistan’s lack of empathy for the Afghans.
Pakistan has already banned Indian film imports that in the recent years helped Pakistani cinema industry, particularly the theatres to do stable business. Pakistan is the loser all the way and its artistes cannot act in Indian films.
Like films, Pakistan has also put a ban on Indian advertisements and appearance of Indian actors and models in those avertisements. This is a difficult task as Indians endorse many multinational products. And finally, how can Indian films, TV programmes and advertisements be stopped from being seen in this age of Internet? The only answer is: smuggling.
In short, Pakistan’s protests are and shall remain a test for its leadership, exposing their ineptness and lack of diligence, in convincing a world that is tired of hearing the word Kashmir.