Source: The Hitavada      Date: 17 Nov 2018 12:46:19

CRICKETER Mr. Shahid Afridi is not a political heavyweight in Pakistan, and may not be harbouring any ambition accordingly. But he has certainly added a new angle to domestic political discourse by saying unequivocally in London before a gathering of youth that Pakistan should give up its control of Occupied Kashmir since it cannot manage its own four provinces. Pakistan may not give Kashmir back to India, but may set it free, Mr. Afridi is reported to have said in his speech. This opinion may not get carried further, but the former Captain of Pakistan’s cricket team has made a convincing case all right.

Given the facts of Pakistan’s domestic scene, any sane person may arrive at such a conclusion. For, among Pakistan’s intellectuals, the impression is growing ever stronger that the country is an entity difficult to manage. Given the current state of Pakistan’s economy -- right at the bottom of the abyss -- a huge sense of hopelessness is rising in people’s minds. News reports have us believe that there is a growing sense of frustration among Pakistani people about possibility of the country’s economic revival. Mr. Afridi’s statement symbolises that widespread feeling among intellectuals and middle-class voters.

Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan, who has not completed even six months in office, also sounds somewhat despondent in his statements and body language, no matter the massive aid China has promised recently when he travelled to Beijing. The Chinese funding may appear massive per se, but is actually only a replacement of any similar funding that could have come from any other country like the United States. In sum and substance, the Chinese aid is only a replacement of the American replenishment that used to come regularly for the past seventy years only to keep Pakistan alive. Now also, there appears no change in the actual situation in Pakistan.

No matter his assertions, Mr. Imran Khan has not succeeded in building a sense of confidence among people of Pakistan in any manner. He did try to create an impression of sobriety and simplicity. He sold expensive cars owned by the Government. He opted to convert various Government properties into tourist attractions. He even sold cattle from the backyard of former Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif, obviously in an attempt to communicate to common people how clean his intentions were. Let alone any such intended impression, the Pakistanis looked at all the effort as poor management of issues.

Reports from Pakistan also have us believe that the common people have begun losing faith in the country’s Defence services. The contention that is doing the rounds in Pakistan’s social circles is a poor economy can only ill-afford to spend so much money on Defence services that cannot outdo any neighbour like India. This despondency is now a highlight of Pakistan’s social discourse. Mr. Afridi’s statement is a reflection of all the domestic psychological turmoil.

The foremost concern of Pakistan today is to manage itself somehow, financially and politically. The vote that Mr. Imran Khan won was just an aspirational expression of the people. But over the past some months since he assumed office, Mr. Imran Khan has not been able to convince the people that he is taking right steps to stabilise a shaky economy. In such a situation, the common people feel that occupation of some parts of Kashmir is too much of a drag on the country’s resources. Hence the courage Mr. Shahid Afridi picked up to make an open statement about hiving off Occupied Kashmir.

There could be multiple hidden dimensions to the suggestion, of course and Mr. Afridi could also be sort of a facade for yet another hidden agenda. Whatever it may be, the fact that such opinions have started coming up from Pakistani people indicates how difficult things are getting in the country. It may be predicted safely that in the next some years, Pakistan will find itself riddled many bigger problems that it would be able to handle.