By Sankar Ray


            There is no denying that Pakistan’s charismatic Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi will leave no nerve unstrained to carve a niche to prove that he is not just another premier while it will be naïve to speculate that he plans to get out of the cocoon of rightwing populism. Nonetheless, the impression is that the kaaptan will not indulge in dynastic or nepotistic politics nor give in to the lure of corruption. Some decisions, already announced, are unprecedented. Ban on foreign trips for ministers and bureaucrats for the next three months (likely to be extended) as also on air travel in business class apart, the PM’s directive, sent by his secretary M Azam Khan to heads of all government departments, directing them ‘not to suspend any contract or permanent employee in the government institutions’ (obviously, excluding those suspended by the courts) is a message of shunning vindictive tradition. Furthermore, the eight-point agenda at the federal Cabinet meeting with the PM in chair comprises steps like the end of approval of discretionary funds of all federal ministries and divisions, setting up of a task force to bring back money taken abroad illegally, recommendations of the ministry of human rights for safeguarding human rights, and establishment of Pak-China Joint Research Centre on Earth Sciences. All this is attuned to the dream of ‘Naya Pakistan’.


            Senior professor of political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences Rasul Baksh Rais took a potshot at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s ‘Naya Pakistan’ slogan with covert skepticism. Change, he stated, is essentially ‘positive, desirable and liberating from bad times and bad past to a better one’, but not without a clear understanding about ‘the phenomenon of change’ encompassing humans and societies’ for upgrading of their material and subjective wellbeing. ‘People rebel against old regimes or vote for new political forces’, Prof Baksh Rais noted, pulling up such arm-chair media ‘intellectuals’ that suffer from a ‘flawed understanding of the feudal-agrarian class structure of Pakistan. They believe it has not changed, and it cannot change until we bring about land reforms The fact is that in the past seven decades, lot of changes have taken place in the agrarian economy — land and power relations at the grassroots level in rural society of Pakistan, which include fragmentation of land, the rise of mercantile bourgeoisie and rural middle class’, he believes.


            Signs of further consolidation of external policies that took place during the last four years are manifest. More positive policies towards India and Afghanistan are expected .But the immediate task is to mend fences with the USA. In his press briefing after his meeting with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Islamabad, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed that the impasse in the Pakistan-US relations has ended as both the sides agree that there be ‘sustained and decisive measures’ against terrorists. Pompeo was accompanied by chairman US joint chief of staff General Joseph Dunford and other senior officials while the Pak team comprised the PM, Qureshi and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The Imran administration is believed to have politely reminded the US negotiators that the latter cannot shirk the responsibility of curbing terrorism jointly with Pakistan. In fact, Washington has now to give second thoughts on the cancellation of previously assured $ 300 million military aid for counter-terrorist operations.


            But irritants remain. Gunning down of Ibrar Khalil, chief of the Awami National Party, by unidentified motorcyclists near Tehkaal in Subhanabad area of Peshawar along with his nephew Rashid Khan casts doubts on the commitment of the ruling PTI leadership to combat terrorism firmly. Khalil was defeated by Pir Fida Muhammad of PTI by a margin of over 11,000 votes from the PK-74 constituency of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where the PTI got over two-thirds of the 124-member legislature against seven by the ANP, which was the largest party in KP until 2013. In July, about a fortnight ahead of the national elections, another ANP leader, Haroon Bilour, former legislator, and 12 others were killed in a suicide attack. The ANP has only one member in the National Assembly and seven in the KP provincial assembly. The reason is obvious. It is the most vociferous political entity against the nexus between the externally-funded Islamic terrorists and a section of Mullahs, functioning with pre-set political designs with the blessings of a factional segment of miltablishment. Which was why intrepid ANP workers and fellow-travelers set up barricades against army vehicles near Shalatula, the birthplace the legendary Sanskrit philologist in the Peshawar Valley almost immediately after the bloody act. The PTI brass is more concerned about the 25th Constitutional Amendment, 2018 for the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with KP, obviously as per the wishes of military leadership that is apathetic towards a political solution. As if the newly-formed taskforce will solve the riddle. Situations in Waziristan and Balochistan are grave and nebulous.

(IPA Service)

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