A Nation Deserted By ‘Friends’: Pakistan’s Anguish Over Kashmir

PAKISTAN has threatened the entire global community with prospects of a war in the region. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rhetoric about India’s ‘plans’ to invade the part of Kashmir that it occupies, and responding in kind, even harder, to ‘each brick with a stone’ (“eent ka jawab patthar se denge”) is a red herring. His spin doctors have stated that both South Asian neighbours are nuclear-armed.

To justify this alarmist angle, Khan has been relentlessly attacking India and accusing its government of nursing Hindu extremism and targeting religious minorities in a manner that perhaps no other Pakistani leader before him has done.

In the process, he may endanger the safety of the Hindu minority in his own country. They already face grave problems, like being targeted by Islamist groups, abduction and forced conversion of their women, lack of adequate legal safeguards and general discrimination.

The threat to the minorities (as per 2012 official statistics, Hindus: 4,000,000, Christians: 3,200,000, Ahmedis: 125,681, Baha’is: 33,734, Sikhs: 20,000, Parsis: 4,020, Buddhists: 1,492 and others: 66,898) is real, since the campaign is aimed at arousing domestic opinion and, in this, Khan seems to have met with considerable success, and even diverted attention from a sinking economy.

While the world is aware of Pakistan’s own role in nurturing and exporting terrorism, Islamabad has warned of further ‘radicalization’ of Muslims in the Kashmir Valley and an “indigenous uprising” against India that could spread to the entire region and the world.

Here, again, it hints at the likely role of “transnational Islamist forces,” ostensibly meaning al Qaida and the Islamic State (IS). But this message is being conveyed when the Pakistan-Afghanistan region has branches and modules and also independent groups of militants owing allegiance to the two groups.

An editorial in the Dawn newspaper (August 15) said: “Transnational extremist forces may have to some extent been weakened, but they retain a shadowy presence, waiting for an opportunity to establish their relevance again.”

Thirdly, unable to garner support from the world community to its protests against what India has done in its own territory in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, Pakistan has begun to find fault with just about everyone around.

The new breed of spin doctors includes even a renowned human rights activist I A Rehman, who claims that Pakistan’s case is not being heard because it is under watch by FATF (UN’s Financial Action Task Force) for failing to curb money laundering and terror funding. Rehman claims the FATF is a ‘biased’ organisation.

In its editorial “A world in denial,” Dawn newspaper blames it on ‘realpolitik’ that “speaks a different language, where the lure of the market far outweighs other considerations, including historical and fraternal ties.” The ostensible reference is to various nations lining up to do business with India, a large market, ignoring Pakistan’s pleas on Kashmir.

Pakistan, which fancies the Gulf region as its cultural backyard, basically because it shares the same religion, feels heavily outweighed and outsmarted by India, which has trade worth USD 100 billion with countries in the region and eight million Indians living and working there.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said “the world is not waiting with garlands” for Pakistan. Prepared to risk its ties with even Muslim nations, like Saudi Arabia and UAE, Qureshi said: “Though we happen to talk about the ummah and Islam, the guardians of the ummah have made investments and have interests in India which are a market of a billion people.”

Pakistan knocked at the door of the UN and sought an emergency meeting, but got an “informal” meeting of the UN Security Council, at China’s behest, which did not give Islamabad any relief.

Unsure of the success of the diplomatic drive he is piloting, Qureshi said that any member of the UNSC “could create hurdles for Pakistan when it presents its case before the global body.”

The world, he observed, had shown little inclination to address Kashmir’s travails through the years and was unlikely to do so now. The Dawn observed that Qureshi’s words “clearly spring from a sense of disillusionment over the largely apathetic response across the globe — but especially from powerful Muslim countries.”

The Muslim countries, by and large, are taking their cue from the United States. Secondly, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are more concerned with Iran and how the US-led effort to contain it works out. And the Saudis and UAE are also embroiled in Yemen for the last five years and are unable to extricate themselves.

Pakistan is unhappy that the major players that could bail it out at the UN are all embroiled in their own affairs – the US trying to quit Afghanistan, and China facing a trying time in Hong Kong which, though a tiny territory, has been racked by increasingly stronger protests against Beijing.

None of these conflicts is likely to be resolved any time soon. That leaves their players with little time and patience for Pakistan’s Kashmir shenanigans.

— Mahendra Ved

(The author is a veteran journalist and commentator)

(This article has been reproduced here in arrangement with the South Asia Monitor. It can be accessed at https://southasiamonitor.org)

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