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What happens to the Sharifs and the
Zardari-Bhuttos now and their respective
strongholds in Punjab and Sindh?
THE SHARIFS Patriarch Nawaz is
in jail for 10 years, and disqualified
from active politics for another 10.
Has a heart condition, will have to
shuttle between hospital and jail.
He�ll be 89 before he can contest
again. Brother Shehbaz (far right) is
relegated to being Nawaz�s shadow
forever while daughter Maryam is
serving a 7-year sentence
to the national mainstream through
the political process,� says the official,
on condition of anonymity. �Yes, he
got laughed at, but recent election results
from the K-P [the terror-ridden
northwestern region ruled by Khan]
and FATA [the restive tribal areas] are
testament to his success in politically
approaching the difficult issue of the
war against terror.�
At the time this article went to print, the
US president had still not called Khan to
congratulate him on his victory, drawing
speculation that Khan�s hard appraisal
of Donald J. Trump�s controversial New
Year�s Day tweet against Pakistan�a
�hurtful� and �humiliating� example of
�scapegoating� the country for �America�s
failure� in Afghanistan�was still
resonant in Washington.
Yet, even though his manifesto and
election campaign were remarkably
quiet about his foreign policy, Khan�s
diplomacy pointers in last week�s victory
speech have gotten a resounding
two thumbs-up in strategic and military
circles. For now, he is expected to
retain the services of Ali J. Siddiqui,
the dynamic young ambassador to
Wash ington, who was appointed by the
last PML-N administration to assuage
Washington�s sanctions-happy regime.
And the �100-year partnership� of
India and the US? How will Khan set
the field for that?
�India will come around, and Modi
is likely to be soft on Pakistan after
2019,� says a military official, on condition
of anonymity. �Till then, Khan may
only have charismatic indu lgence with
sections of Indian media and society and
he�ll build on his �you take one step, we�ll
take two� message to Delhi.�
As for China, Khan �almost sounded
like President Xi himself, with his
agenda of poverty alleviation, good
governance and anti-corruption, didn�t
he?� the official asks. �It�s quite evident
from Beijing�s statements that the Chinese
will embrace Naya Pakistan.�
Thus, the toss is won. The umpires
are not neutral. The conditions are
overcast. Yet, with Nawaz Sharif (ailing
from a serious heart condition) and
his fiery daughter in jail, the other side
is missing its pace attack.
Still, Pakistan has decided to go for
it and elected to bat. And Imran Khan
has promoted himself up from the middle-
order, and will be opening. n
Wajahat Khan is an Emmynominated
correspondent for NBC
News and The Times, and anchors
for Lahore-based Dunya News
Benazir�s widower
Asif let son
Bilawal do all the
talking during the
election campaign.
Now, PPP will
have to play ball
in Parliament,
else the guns of
will be trained on
Zardari Sr
Can India do business with a
Every victor in a political election soon realises that once he or she
occupies the seat of power, responsibility takes precedence over
rhetoric. Imran Khan had to do that almost instantly. On the
stump, he had mocked his arch-rival, Nawaz Sharif, for reaching
out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was in power,
with the slogan��
Modi ka jo yaar hai, woh gaddar hai� (He
who is a friend of Modi is a traitor). A week later, when the election
(PTI), was in a position to form the government, Khan�s tone was
more conciliatory, promising that if Modi took one step towards
improving relations between the two countries, he would take
two. When Modi graciously called Khan on July 30 to wish him
well, they both hoped that they could begin a new innings together
in India-Pakistan relations.
The good thing for Khan is that when it comes to improving
ties with India, expectations are extremely low. So even the
smallest steps he takes to move things forward will make a splash.
That�s because Sharif, who promised so much when he was elected
as the prime minister for the third time in 2013, delivered very
little beyond handshakes and hugs. Instead of an upswing, relations
three years. The formal dialogue process never got going, tensions
ran high over Pakistan stoking the volatile situation in Kashmir,
By Raj Chengappa
hawkish Pakistan? Or will
Khan signal detente?
t elec
tion results showed that his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
ing rela
tions between the two countries touched a new nadir in the past
the 2003 ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control (LoC) is as
good as dead, after repeated violations�
indeed in September 2016 India famously
resorted to surgical strikes to warn Pakistan
to end cross-border terrorism after a
series of provocative terror attacks.
Khan takes charge at a critical time
when his troubled country is at a major
crossroads not only in terms of its volatile
internal dynamics but also in its relations
with other countries, particularly India.
In his victory speech, Khan complained
that India had portrayed him as a Bollywood
villain. He should have known
better about a country that loves cricket
as much as his own does. In India, Khan
remains a cricketing hero and his 1992
World Cup win was regarded not just as
a Pakistani victory but a subcontinental
one. As Khan takes over as the political
captain of Pakistan on August 11,
he should remember that there is inherent
goodwill for him in the hearts of the
Indian public. And he should not fritter
that away.
That the Pakistan army had supported
his political ascent to displace a
belligerent Sharif is now common knowledge.
But as Shivshankar Menon, former
national security advisor and an expert
on Pakistan, points out, �Everyone may
have written off Khan as a stooge of the
army, but once a politician comes to power,
the dynamics of the post and not the
individual determine his relations with
the establishment. He will follow his own
dharma just as the army chief does.� Experts
give Khan six months in the job before
he exhibits traits of independence and
assertiveness that characterised even his
cricketing captaincy. The larger-than-life
sense of self that he developed both as a
cricketing and social icon has made him
even more imperial and headstrong in his
behaviour than most of his predecessors.
Almost all Indian leaders have found
Pakistan far more complex and complicated
to deal with than any other country.
That�s because there are several Pakistans
to deal with simultaneously. Imran Khan
as prime minister represents an important
face of Pakistan, but is only one of them.
There is also the powerful Pakistan army
that will seek to strengthen its hold over
foreign policy and internal security. Then
there are the Islamic right-wing groups,
including militants, who with the blessings
of the army had tried to join the
political mainstream by contesting elections�
though without much success. And
then there is its burgeoning civil society
which wants Pakistan to develop rapidly
and provide jobs for its aspiring young.
Khan represents a puzzling duality.
He has maintained his comfort with modernity
even as he embraced the support
of right-wing conservatives to further his
political prospects as he did with the army.
T.C.A. Raghavan, a former high commissioner
to Pakistan, points out, �Let�s be
clear that Imran is not a 100 per cent creature
of the army�he is his own leader. He
may have more of a comfort zone with the
army than his predecessors did�this is
not a bad thing for us.� In fact, India might
find dealing with Khan far easier than
Sharif because at least when he says he
will do something, he will have the backing
of the army. So the duality that India
has experienced while dealing with other
Pakistani leaders may not be as strong.
Sharif, for example, had an open confrontation
with the army, which then worked
towards his ouster. Khan has seen the fate
of politicians in Pakistan who have tried
to take on the army chief and is likely to be
more circumspect.
Yet experienced Pakistan-watchers
believe that a change in top civilian leadership
in Islamabad need not result in a
change in the status quo in its relations
with India. That�s because, as Sharat Sabharwal,
another former high commissioner
to Pakistan, says, �The army remains a
constant, and with Sharif�s exit, there is
further dampening of relations with India.�
Sabharwal is not comforted by the
PTI manifesto, particularly the foreign
policy objectives it lays down. On Kashmir,
the manifesto expectedly declares it as a
core issue, but harks back to the rhetoric
of the distant past, calling for resolving the
dispute within the parameters of UN Security
Council resolutions. Both countries
had long since moved on from this point
and any reference to it is seen as a stalling
mechanism by Pakistan.
More worrying for Sabharwal is that,
in the manifesto, Khan sees �conflict resolution
and the security route to cooperation
as the most viable� to sort out issues with
India. Translated, this means that Khan�s
government will up the ante on conflict
resolution, with no mention of improving
relations on other fronts, including trade�
which is exactly the Pakistan army�s stand.
Though Khan, in his victory speech, did
mention improving trade relations with
India, this is being seen as something of
an afterthought rather than a carefully
crafted policy. Moreover, Khan will be too
preoccupied with the pressing task of stop-
India will
probably find it
easier to deal
with Khan as
his moves are
likely to have
the army�s