old wine only

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 27 Jul 2018 12:56:11

EVEN as the burden of the moment seemed to weigh him down, Pakistan’s emerging leader Mr. Imran Khan adopted a mix of tough as well as conciliatory approaches to the challenges before the country. In his first-ever televised address to the nation, Mr. Imran Khan promised corruption-free governance that would be marked by probity in public spending, elimination of political feudalism and elitism and diverting public policy towards the welfare of the poor, making a stark comparison with all the previous rulers who spent public money for their comfort. “I promise,” he said, “Inshallah, a new era in the country”. 

It was obvious that Mr. Imran Khan’s speech was on a note that was altogether different from his election speeches in which he berated his rivals as stooges of India, for example. He did talk tough, but tried his best to project himself as a non-conventional Pakistani leader trying to establish a sense of balance at all levels. His biggest stress was on domestic governance and improvement of Pakistani economy so that foreign investment would be forthcoming to the country.

Even as he seemed able to strike a sense of balance in his statement, Mr. Imran Khan turned to foreign policy issues and asserted his country’s China-tilt. Even as he did that, the new leader who carries a halo of his cricketing glory all along, also hit at the United States and its allies who abused Pakistan for their own interests. Even then, he said, his Government would try to establish a semblance of bipartisan balance with relations with the US while leaning more on China as a long-term friend in good and bad days. He also talked of other Islamic countries like Afghanistan, Iran and others as permanent allies of Pakistan.

The most important point of his speech, however, came towards the end when he insisted that Kashmir was the bone of contention between Pakistan and India, and appealed India to establish a dialogue in order to solve the issue amicably. “There is no point in playing the blame-game. India should not blame Pakistan for everything that goes wrong in Kashmir, and Pakistan cannot blame India for the wrongs taking place in Balochistan. We need to talk, “ he said. The new leader also blamed the Indian media for trying to paint him as sort of “a Bollywood villain”.

Mr. Imran Khan’s speech gave enough indication to India that he would follow the same old foreign policy line as regards Kashmir as he talked about what he called “human rights violations in Kashmir” and how India erred in using the Army to put down militancy there. This approach made it abundantly clear that there would be almost no change in Pakistan’s foreign policy approach that often considered India as the only enemy.

Time and again, however, there lurked in Mr. Imran Khan’s speech a deep concern for the declining economy of Pakistan. And as he expressed those concerns -- about attracting investment, about ease of doing business in Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan kept making repeated references to China as an all-weather friend. On the surface, his entire statement sounded sober, but concealed in its folds a strong and natural anti-India bias and a sense of regret that the world linked Pakistan to all terror.

At several points, Mr. Imran Khan made personal promises to the people of Pakistan that he would take care to sort out many ills dogging the country, each time saying Inshallah as he took ownership of solutions, a language that his predecessors did not use ever as profusely as he did. Despite his outwardly soft and conciliatory approach, the new Pakistani leader came across as somebody trying to sit between two stools, the Army and the clergy. And this usualness of the language made it clear that Mr. Imran Khan may not be having anything special as a new agenda for upliftment of his troubled country.