Disappearing K Word
When article 370 was abrogated on 05 Aug 19, Pakistan and its Prime Minister Mr Imran Khan went ballistic. They predicted war and nuclear holocaust. They predicted mass bloodshed when restrictions were lifted in Kashmir. They promised to stand by their Kashmiri brethren through thick and thin. They predicted an Intifada. In sum, a lot of headwinds were expected from Pakistan in the long run when seen beyond the short-term high decibel screeches emanating from their National news and media channels. However, all these dire predictions have not come true. Far from coming true, if one reads Pakistani newspapers, the ‘K’ word is conspicuous by its absence. It is not a one-day or a T20 kind of a phenomenon. Scour the newspapers of the entire month of January and the best part of December. It appears as if vanishing cream has been applied on reporting on the ‘K’ factor. If one stops looking for the K factor and see other headlines, one will see what Pakistan is up to or rather up against. Very simply put Pakistan is fighting its demons. Let us see what their demons are.
The Pakistani Economy is Ghostly. It tanks once in 2-3 years. Every time it tanks, it goes to the IMF. Immediately the Ghost appears to put it in a bigger financial mess. Now Pakistan has gone again to the IMF in far more adverse conditions. Where there was some hope that the Macroeconomic situation could stabilize, the Ghost has made the Microeconomics go awry. The average Pakistani is paying heavily through his pockets for the profligacy of its military controlled ineffectual government which has mismanaged everything. Just imagine paying Rs 400/kg for Tomatoes, Rs 320/kg for Capsicum, Rs100/kg for onions, Rs240-260/kg moong dal (up from Rs130-150), Rs110-120/ litre for milk, Rs100/ kg jump in various tea prices. Cost of petrol and diesel is Rs116.60 and Rs127.26 per litre. Consumer Price Index has increased from 5.55% to 12.63%. Inflation has been rampant at above 10% for more than three months now. The average Pakistani has a dire choice. He can struggle to feed himself and his family or pay for strife in Kashmir and die through starvation. The Ghost has given him very few choices.
The Wheaty Demon
Pakistan is facing a massive wheat problem. The problem has been building up since 2019. In the middle of last year, they exported wheat to earn some foreign revenue. They wanted to export some amount, but manipulators exported thrice the amount. The export was undertaken despite Pakistan having produced a million tons less than normal. They exported since they had buffers in storage. However, the buffers were not stored well and a lot of it perished. Further a lot of buffer was only on paper. Late in 2019, they knew the problem was looming and could have resorted to import earlier. However, the import decision was deferred for many reasons including lack of foreign currency, preoccupation with the K factor and other issues. Ultimately when they went in for import, the wheat prices in the international market zoomed. By the time the wheat arrives in its ports and goes into market, the current wheat crop will be in market and prices will drop. Net result – Pakistan exported cheap, is suffering a wheat crisis, resorted to import of costly wheat and when it comes no one will buy it! Losing scenario anyway you look at it. This issue will snowball and will have other collaterals. Very clearly¸ Imran and his Nero’s (the Army) were fiddling in Kashmir when Pakistan was burning. No wonder the self-proclaimed Ambassador of Kashmir has no time for his flock in the Valley. Look. When the food security of the nation is at stake, who in Pakistan is bothered about Kashmiris? This Demon has truly flatfooted Pakistan.
CPEC – Ghostly Silence
What is happening in CPEC? It was supposed to change the fortunes of Pakistan. Again, there is no news. No news is normally good news. In this case it is a deathly silence. Obviously, things are crawling and not great. One wonders what is happening. In fact, chances of early recovery of this mega project seem to be bleak and must be tinged with pessimism considering that China has its own set of problems – cooling economy, trade war, Hong Kong and now Coronavirus. The CPEC slowdown is contributing to the indifference to Kashmir. Make no mistake.
Taliban, Trump and Middle East
Afghanistan, Trump and Taliban. This trio is keeping Pakistan on its toes. Pakistan is caught in a game of death roulette there. Trump wants to get USA out. Pakistan cannot let its cash cow go. Pakistan wants a Taliban of its choice in. No one including the Taliban will let that happen. Taliban wants its cake fully. Trump and Pakistan won’t let it eat it. Any way you look at it, it is a gun on Pakistan’s head. Turn to the Middle East. The trio of USA, Iran and Saudi Arabia are locked in a conflict with IS and each other. In this conflict of strange bed fellows, without an end, the Pakistanis are the Dogs of War since it brings in moolah. This imbroglio forces Pakistan to keep its eyes Westward. Kashmir is a drain, whereas the labor economy of Pakistan scrounges in the Middle East battlefield and brings in precious inward remittances. No wonder there is a lot of discussion of the events to the West and Kashmir is on the backburner.
The FATF has kept Pakistan on the grey list. Since China is now the Chair of FATF, the expectation is that they will get off it. However, even for that to happen, Pakistan must put in some effort. The effort involves no terror incidents in Kashmir, the Jaish and LeT cadres on an unpaid holiday, cleaning up their funding tracks, and some structural changes even if they are minimal. At the minimum, it means that for the present the ‘K’ word would be taboo in their dictionary. At least for some time now the ISI will be dormant on the issue. The cost of continuing the FATF are too high for Pakistan.
Army Chief and Musharraf
Two events have rocked the foundations of the Pakistani Army. Firstly, when the Supreme Court questioned the extension of service to the Army Chief just days before his retirement in end November 19, it set the cat amongst the pigeons. It then gave a conditional extension till such time the Army Act was amended. That process is on with the government and opposition parties falling over each other to ensure the amendment goes through and General Bajwa continues in service. In the meantime, there were stories that there were cracks in the Corps Commanders cabal. Secondly in mid-December, Musharraf was declared guilty of high treason and handed the death sentence. The Army came to his rescue post haste with great alacrity. It has pulled all strings and now a Lahore high court has set aside the sentence. However, this might not be the end of the story. Afterall this is a country which has successively been degraded through dictatorships and military rule directly or by proxy for most part of its existence. These events indicate that the Pakistani might be just getting fed up of the Army. Overall, when your own survival is at stake only a madman will continue to think of Kashmir. In my opinion, Pakistani Army has chosen to set its Kashmir madness to a later date for now.
The Window of Opportunity
There are many more issues which dominate the Pakistani press. I am not too bothered about them. I have outlined those important factors which have a bearing on whether Pakistan has the time to look at Kashmir or not. At least for the next six months the window of opportunity is clear. Pakistan cannot dream of fomenting trouble in the Valley. This window, in all probability will extend further. Such a window of opportunity has never been given to India since we returned the 93000 POWs to Pakistan after the 71 war. We must capitalize on it and focus on Kashmir to settle the issue once and for all. I find it strange that during this period of great strategic opportunity, India is battling its self-created ghosts – CAA, NRC and NPR. I could not care less if they are needed or not. I do not care if the Government of India is correct or not. That is a debate for another day. At a time when our economy is also in trouble, this business is an unnecessary diversion. All I know is that at present these issues have diverted us from the task at hand and hence are not needed now. If we do not get back to focus on Kashmir, India might end up as the biggest loser. let us not pull the shade down on this historic window of opportunity.