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'Pakistan should remain on a ventilator'

Last updated on: May 17, 2023 08:46 IST
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'A stable and strong Pakistan with an anti-India mindset and hatred is not good for us.'

IMAGE: Security officers escort Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan as he appeared in the Islamabad high court, May 12, 2023. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Pakistan has been in turmoil after former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested in a corruption case by Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau on May 9.

On Thursday, May 11, the nation's supreme court called Khan's arrest illegal and ordered his immediate release.

To know more about the situation in Pakistan and what implications it could have on India, Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ spoke to Tilak Devasher, former special secretary, Cabinet secretariat, Government of India, and author of many acclaimed books on Pakistan.

His book Pakistan: Courting the Abyss is a must read for everyone who wants to know how the country fell into the dangerous path of Islamisation leading to permanent chaos.

Among his other books are Pakistan: At the Helm; Pakistan: The Balochistan Conundrum; and The Pashtuns: A Contested History.

The concluding segment of a two-part interview:


Why did Imran Khan mention at his rally the killing of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya?
What political mileage did he want to get out of it by blaming Major General Faisal Naseer, as this was the trigger point for the current chaos?

He was trying to allege that the army had bumped off Arshad Sharif because he was raising a lot of questions about the Pakistan army.

However, while there is suspicion, there is no concrete proof that the army had a hand in his killing.

Some people say there was a drug trafficking angle that got him killed. So I cannot say definitely what the truth about his murder is.

Imran Khan's opponents say it was during his tenure that the Pakistan economy started collapsing and he is to be blamed for the entire mess in which the country is in.
How far is that true?

This is true to a large extent. He did not have any economic policy and he changed three finance ministers in his just little more than three-year tenure.

Even though he went to the International Monetary Fund he did not fulfill all the conditions agreed to.

According to the agreement with the IMF, the energy and petrol rates were to be raised during his tenure, but he refused to do that in February 2022. As a result, the IMF stopped the release of additional tranches. This led to the exchange rate going up (the Pakistan rupee depreciating) and inflation.

Further, the impact of Covid was felt on the Pakistan economy. Imran Khan was not able to handle the situation.

Overall, he ran the economy to the ground.

Why is he still popular then even though he ruined the economy?

Public memory is short.

When he was in power people used to make jokes about his statement, 'aap ne ghabrana nahi hai' (you need not fear) though the situation is bad. People used to joke and tell him 'ab aap humko ghabraney do' (let us be afraid now), because the economic situation had become so bad.

After his removal from power, he alleged an American conspiracy and claimed his anti-American stance led to his dismissal. He thus tapped into the anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. Later he made a U-turn and said it was not the Americans, but it was the army. Now he was tapping into the anti-establishment (sentiment).

You have to remember that he was a popular figure in Pakistan as he was a cricketer and speaks well. He speaks with conviction, that has led to him having a cult following.

Then, there are people in Pakistan who could not find a place in traditional politics because it was run on biradri (brotherhood) lines by feudal families.

Young urban middle class Pakistanis could not fit in those parties so they joined Imran Khan's party.

Moreover, Imran Khan weaponised social media. PTI has the most effective social media team in Pakistan. This attracts the youth a lot who are addicted to social media. They do not follow the tactics of the old political parties who use traditional methods of mobilisation.

He does that too, but he is streets ahead of the others on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

What is the US role in the internal turmoil of Pakistan?

They do not find much use for Pakistan anymore.

Pakistan was useful to the US when there was the war on terror or when during the Afghanistan war against the Soviets.

Now they do not find Pakistan useful. Also, Pakistan was largely responsible for the US failure in Afghanistan. They have not forgotten that.

The IMF too is taking a tough stance against Pakistan and has not released the tranches that became due.

What about China, which has huge investments in Pakistan?

If you recall, recently when the Chinese foreign minister was in Pakistan and met the Afghanistan foreign minister he castigated Pakistan openly (external link). He told them to politically unify so that they could concentrate on development and the China-Pakistan Economic Order rather than infighting.

It was a strong statement and everybody was stunned as China never did something like this before.

If Pakistan breaks up, what happens to India? What ramifications will we have to face in this scenario?

It is still far away. It is a theoretical question and we will have to wait and watch.

So long as the Pakistan army's chain of command remains, they will not let Pakistan break up.

Political stability or not, Pakistan never stopped exporting terror to our country in the last three decades and in this scenario, is a stable Pakistan good for India or bad?

What is best for India is that the economic condition of Pakistan should continue to be precarious. It should remain on a ventilator and keep seeking bailouts from different countries.

A stable and strong Pakistan with an anti-India mindset and hatred is not good for us.

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