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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Why Imran Khan ‘Mission Kashmir’ is failing

It is failing because Khan as the PM of a country that supports and uses terrorism can hardly expect to pass for a champion of human rights

columns Updated: Sep 27, 2019 16:28 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 24, 2019
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 24, 2019(AFP)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was unusually forthright. “To be absolutely frank,” he said, “I am a bit disappointed by the international community.” His one-point foreign policy agenda, Kashmir, for the past few weeks, and the only plan for the 74th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly debates, has gone nowhere. The Pakistanis knew this better than anyone else, and Khan had no option but to acknowledge it.

But too proud to admit defeat and move on, Khan decided to brazen it out. He blamed the international community, saying the world was blinded by the glitter of India’s one-billion-people market, and, in case the mullahs did not get it, he threw in religion — that no one cares about Muslims. Had it been the Europeans or the Jews, he argued, or a handful of Americans, who had been subjected to the kind of restrictions in place in Kashmir since the revocation of Article 370 on August 5, it would have been a different story.

The restrictions have been criticised by many world bodies and countries, including the UN, and India has allayed those concerns through assurances of early easing of these measures. But that’s not because of Khan. His campaign — named “Mission Kashmir” by Pakistan’s UN ambassador Maleeha Lodhi — is failing. It is failing because Khan as the PM of a country that uses terrorism cannot pass for a champion of human rights. A third of the terrorists on the UN Security Council’s 1267 Sanctions Committee’s list are either Pakistanis, or operate out of the country. Many of them, like Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Toiba, and Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad, have been behind the killings of Kashmiris.

Khan is not a credible messenger for anything to do with peace, freedom, and rights. Instead of owning up to Pakistan’s guilt, and vowing to root it out, he has sought to portray Pakistan as a victim of America’s callousness in leaving it with a terrorism problem after using it to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. He has sought to now leverage those links to enter into the good books of the US, especially President Donald Trump, who wants to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, and is willing to use any help he can.

“Mission Kashmir” was born of an unexpected turn of luck for the Pakistan’s PM in July. Like his predecessors, Khan asked Trump to resolve the tensions between India and Pakistan, which have been rising since the Pulwama attack in February. And Trump had agreed to it and continued to hold on to this position despite a swift and decisive rejection from India.

Khan went home a triumphant hero. But Trump did not deliver, and shortly, the Taliban talks collapsed. This was a severe blow to Khan’s utility for Trump. But the Pakistan leader tried, it seems, to use Trump’s stillborn offer to launch an ambitious campaign. Soon, letters were flying out of Islamabad to world leaders, followed by phone calls and personal visits. Only China, which has placed almost a million of its Uighur Muslim minority in internment camps that some have compared to “concentration camps”, agreed with Pakistan.

Khan can choose to stay or quit.

First Published: Sep 27, 2019 16:28 IST

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