Time for Imran to take on India, not domestic rivals

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 05:50 PM, 15 Feb, 2020
Time for Imran to take on India, not domestic rivals

The unequivocal support expressed by Turkish President Erdogan on Kashmir during his address to the joint session of parliament is a source of strength for Pakistan. This was what was expected from the great leader of a brotherly Islamic country on the rights of the millions of oppressed and persecuted Kashmiri people.

Unfortunately, the same day Prime Minister Imran Khan called for trying JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, his bitter political foe who last year staged a 13-day-long protest sit-in in the federal capital, for “conspiring to topple his government”.

“He [Fazl] should be charged under Article 6 of the Constitution,” Imran said while speaking to a select group of media persons at his residence in Islamabad on Friday.

The same day the JUI-F chief’s son, Maulana Asad Mehmood, said on the floor of the house that Article 6 of the Constitution should not be applied to the Maulana, but to what he called the selected prime minister. “I challenge you [the prime minister] to make cases against us. We will not do what they [the government] want,” he added.

The prime minister’s press talk was ill-timed which has established once again that even after 18 months in power he has not learnt to say the right thing at the right time. He says whatever comes to his mind, without bothering to assess the likely consequences of his utterances. His Friday media talk on a domestic issue has diluted the impact of the Turkish president’s speech.

The projection of the visiting president’s supportive speech would have been even better if the prime minister had avoided the Friday media interaction. Probably he has done no service to his party.

The prime minister must not forget that it was during the PTI’s rule that India annexed occupied Kashmir; and it is PTI leadership’s moral obligation to take necessary steps to get the unconstitutional occupation vacated. And he can’t do this unless he has unwavering support from the country’s opposition parties, what he likes them or not.

If the prime minister wants Fazlur Rehman tried under Article 6 at this juncture, he can’t expect the JUI-F’s support on this issue. Similarly, other opposition parties will not like to stand by him, no matter what their verbal commitments.

It’s no secret that the PML-N, PPP and a number of other parties, for right or wrong reasons, want the ouster of the PTI government at the earliest possible. They will support the JUI-F’s point of view for their vested interests.

The PTI-led coalition is already very shaky. Coalition partners may part ways with the PTI any time on the pretext that the government has not addressed their grievances. And without allies’ support the PTI government can’t survive even for a day.

(For the time being differences with the coalition partners have only been papered over).

In this situation pragmatism demands that Prime Minister Imran Khan should not talk of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s trial under Article 6 (which provides for capital punishment if the charge is proved). Instead, he should create national unity at home to enable his government to spare more time to fight the Kashmir case more forcefully at the international level.

At a stage when not all Muslim countries are whole-heartedly supporting Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, the prime minister should not do anything that affects unity at home.

And he should also not forget that if Fazl attracts Article 6 for staging a two-week sit-in in Islamabad to seek the ouster of the PTI government, the prime minister himself and his co-protesters deserve to be treated under the very same article for committing the very same offence for more than four months to seek the removal of then elected government in 2014. Likewise,  his “political cousin” Dr Tahirul Qadri, who also organized a sit-in those day and also caused damage to the state assets, should also be treated the same way.

And if all this is done now, focus would be shifted from the Kashmir cause, providing the best opportunity to enemy India to rejoice. The country will plunge into a new crisis, which is in nobody’s interest.

The best course is: Let bygones be bygones and focus on the real problems facing the country.