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As Pakistan PM, Imran Khan will have to play a captain’s knock

Islamabad watchers say that a tactically flexible Khan, in his new Islamic conservative avatar, will have to play a captain’s innings to pull Pakistan out of severe difficulties on both the economic and security fronts

india Updated: Aug 20, 2018 08:40 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pakistan,Imran Khan,Pakistan Army
With India looking towards Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of 26/11, Pathankot and Uri terror strikes to book, PM Khan will have to go against Jaish-e-Mohammed and LeT terror groups to prove his sincerity to India and the world.(AFP/PID)

India will be closely watching Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan on several dimensions: his interplay with Pakistan’s all-powerful Army; his relations with the country’s all-weather friend China and; the action he is willing and able to take , if at all, on the 36 terrorist training camps in Occupied Kashmir and the country’s hinterland, details of which have been shared by New Delhi with Islamabad.

Islamabad watchers say that a tactically flexible Khan, in his new Islamic conservative avatar, will have to play a captain’s innings to pull Pakistan out of severe difficulties on both the economic and security fronts . The country’s debt is touching over $20 billion and $12 billion is required to bail out the Islamic Republic from a looming balance of payment crisis.

Pakistan’s macroeconomic numbers are all wrong at the current moment with current account deficit at 5.8 per cent of GDP and debt to GDP standing at 67 per cent. The country’s coffers are shored up by $19.3 billion of remittances from nine million Pakistani expats and the country’s forex reserve is paltry USD 9.2 billion. With a penchant for playing Russian roulette with its finances, Pakistan is expected to get a bail out but the question is from whom — IMF, China or Saudi Arabia? .

The situation on the security front is equally dire with the so-called Islamic State Khorasan acquiring self-sustaining characteristics on the Durand Line and conducting strikes on both sides of the Khyber and Bolan passes. The massive terror strike in Baluchistan in the run-up to Pakistan General elections by the IS and the involvement of Lashkar-e-Tayebba (LeT) fighters with Taliban in the Ghazni attack this month shows the extent of the malaise. According to a May 2018 report called “ Spiders of the Caliphate: Mapping the IS’s Global Support Network on Facebook”, the IS-Khorasan does not require any foreign fighters to sustain itself in the Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan. The report shows IS activity has increased on Durand Line and Myanmar-Bangladesh border, but adds that Indian Muslims are largely resistant to recruitment from either al Qaeda or IS.

Although PM Khan has offered a dialogue on all issues including Kashmir with India, there is hardly any room for the former pace bowler to manoeuvre in the face of these constraints to deliver on the bilateral relationship. Pakistan, with a recent 20 per cent hike in the Defence Budget, just cannot afford another hike without eating into Khan’s Islamic welfare state agenda. And given India’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan, Khan will find it difficult to get similar traction with West Asia as in the past.

Caught in a cleft stick between Rawalpindi generals and Islamists belonging to no less than 20 terrorist groups, the possibility of Khan falling into default mode and talking up the Kashmir situation is very high. He should remember that his foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was in India during 26/11 oblivious to the fact that ISI was behind the Mumbai massacre. He was evacuated from Delhi on the Pakistan Army Chief’s personal aircraft after then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee directed him to leave the country for his own safety.

With India looking towards Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of 26/11, Pathankot and Uri terror strikes to book, PM Khan will have to go against Jaish-e-Mohammed and LeT terror groups to prove his sincerity to India and the world. It’s not the kind of pitch made to suit fast bowlers.

First Published: Aug 20, 2018 08:40 IST