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Pak Meltdown


What has India got to look out for in the context of the current political meltdown in Pakistan over former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest by the National Accountability Bureau in the ‘Toshakhana’ case? The forces have been put on alert on the borders to prevent any kind of spillover. This would not be unexpected as it is the usual tactic used by the Pakistan Establishment to divert public attention from internal problems. Indians in Lahore have been advised to return home as the situation is unpredictable.

Beyond that, however, should India maintain a hands-off approach in the belief that it would be wrong to interfere in any way, even through adopting a diplomatic stance? It must not be forgotten that a similar popular upsurge had taken place in Sri Lanka not so long ago and India had played a positive role in its resolution.

There are differences, of course. In Pakistan, it is not dissatisfaction of the general public with the government and a political outfit, as was the case in Sri Lanka; it is conflict between a populist politician and the Army establishment. This is a path the politicians have learned not to tread. The irony is that Imran was put in place as PM by the Army, and then they had a falling out. Not just that, Imran has been audacious enough to comment against the Army, a number of its officers and even the ISI. He tried to push the nation towards early elections, confident of his popularity among the people, but the present government, the Election Commission and the Army have not been willing.

Imran has questioned many of the past policies of the Establishment, particularly the long-term pandering to US interests. He stirred up a storm with his ‘definitely not’ declaration on helping the US in its Afghan policy. There has been one attempt to assassinate him, which almost succeeded, indicating the dread in which he is held by the Deep State. For some, therefore, he is fighting to assert the authority of the elected politicians over those who have, till now, controlled matters from behind the scenes without any accountability.

Under the circumstances, the situation could provide an opportunity for India and the international community to liberate Pakistan from the military stranglehold. It may be noted that, although Imran wants to establish a ‘Riyasat e Medina’ in Pakistan, he is by no means a radical and is no favourite of the clerics. So, he is fighting a lone battle on several fronts. So, if the opportunity arrives in this struggle for intervention, India should have a strategy in place and not be found wanting.