When the military in Pakistan rigged the national election and selected Imran Khan as the Prime Minister, they did it with the specific purpose of mollifying a western audience by propping up “someone like them”. Someone who could deflect the West’s attention from mounting complaints and criticisms about the military functioning as the motherboard of global terror. And what better gloss could the generals apply to the pockmarked face of their military establishment than a suave, western educated international cricketer, who belonged to the “smart set”, had access to the finest drawing rooms in the West and was once married to a rich western woman? It’s even better when that “gloss” comes with the wrapper of “democracy”. It is in this context that Imran Khan’s latest comments about terrorism, and peace with India have to be seen. Lest there be any doubts, Imran Khan is a puppet of the Pakistan military and no amount of “candid interactions” with Western journalists, will change that fact. Now that the international community, barring China, is increasingly demanding accountability from Pakistan over its support to terrorism, Imran Khan’s latest admission that his country had helped foster “militant” groups in the 1980s and that it should “never have allowed them to exist once (Afghanistan) jihad was over”, should be viewed as scripted. Since the world has stopped believing in Pakistan’s lie that it has nothing to do with terrorism, the generals have shifted gear from denial to admission, expression of repentance and presenting a chastised and chastened facade to the world—while in reality resorting to the worst kind of chicanery possible. This strategy is evident from Imran Khan’s following statements: “We have decided, this country has decided, for the future of the country—forget outside pressure—we will not allow armed militias to operate” and that “today, we have the total support of the Pakistan army and intelligence services in dismantling them. What use has ISI of them anymore? These groups were created for the Afghan jihad.” Implicit in this is the Pakistani line that terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is home-grown, rather than Pakistani sponsored. The truth is that terrorism—and not just Afghan “militias”—as mothered by Pakistan, has always been, and is still being, used as “state policy” to bleed its neighbours, particularly India, with the purpose of not only snatching Kashmir but also weakening India by bleeding it with a thousand cuts. The other truth is that the “jihad” in Afghanistan is ongoing, with active support from Pakistan. But then Imran Khan’s prevarication is tailored to suit Uncle Sam’s ears, and might be used by the United States as an excuse for a troops-pullout from Afghanistan, even at the cost of serving that blighted land on a platter to Pakistan’s generals and their pet “militias”, including the “peaceful” Taliban.
Already on the grey list, Pakistan faces the very real threat of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which will result in a complete drying up of institutional funds and will kill its economy. Which explains the need for Imran Khan to make the right noises, to launch a PR exercise. But when noises do not match the reality on the ground, when terrorists like Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed roam free, when terror training camps operate freely under the mentorship of Pakistani generals, when terrorist attacks are planned and executed with help from the Pakistani establishment, such PR exercises are nothing but a sham. It’s hoped the international community will not fall for this charade.
As for Imran Khan’s assertion that he is ready to make peace with India, he can always make a start by handing over Masood Azhar, the head of the terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed, to India, putting terrorist mastermind Hafiz Saeed behind bars and by opening up its airspace to civilian Indian aircraft. Not letting civilian Indian aircraft fly in its airspace, in an act of spite as a response to Balakot, may be financially inconvenient for Indian airline companies, but Pakistan needs to realise that such pin-pricks cannot hobble India’s economy. Also, Imran Khan’s sudden change of heart regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears suspicious. Until recently, he was indulging in the worst kind of invective against the Indian Prime Minister. So it is but natural that the genuineness of his assertion that he believed that PM Modi was best suited to make peace with Pakistan, will be questioned.