This is in continuation of my previous blog post about Sana Bucha’s article in The News published on 6th November entitled “His Name is Khan, Imran Khan”, which I saw as representative of recent opinions published about Imran Khan.
Wave the magic wand
Imran had made some high-level foreign policy statements in his speech, which clearly confuse Ms Bucha as she finds them neither realistic nor idealistic. She asks how Imran will convince India to remove its forces from Kashmir, whether by diplomacy or by other means of persuasion.
The main reason for Indian troops’ presence in Kashmir is insurgency. Maintaining this troop presence costs India a huge amount in terms of money and international reputation, but political imperatives compel them to incur these costs. More and more, an acceptance is developing across both sides of the Indo-Pak border that, ultimately, it is in the interests of both countries to reduce military spending and divert funds to economic and social development. But neither is willing to trust the other. If attitudes do not change on both sides, if militancy from our side of the Line of Control continues and India maintains its army presence, and refuses to recognise the Kashmiri’s rights of self-determination, the Kashmir dispute will remain a dispute to eternity.
Clearly, there is no single magic solution. Relations with India have been damaged to the brink of destruction over our nation’s sixty year history. Getting India to agree to withdraw its troops from Kashmir will be a long and difficult process, but Imran has the starting point right: ending support for militancy from Pakistani soil. We must convince India that we are committed to reaching a peaceful solution and will stop supporting militants, provided that India agrees to a phased troop withdrawal. This will require extensive diplomatic effort, negotiations, confidence building and a constructive and sustained step-by-step approach.
The truth is that 75% of Kashmiri people believe that violence, as advocated by militant groups, is either less likely to solve the Kashmir dispute or will make no difference. We have, for one reason or another, refused to recognise this truth. Whether it is covert operations across the line of control, the adventure in Kargil or assistance to militants in the form of weapons, training and funds, the powers that be have done their best to keep the India-Pakistan relationship messy. After all, it makes sense for them to have India as the “super-enemy” to continue getting the lion’s share of the nation’s budget.
I don’t mean to disparage the vast majority of our armed forces. The jawans who form the bulk of their numbers are committed, patriotic and dedicated young men, whose only objective is to defend their country’s sovereignty. Unfortunately, those who are formulating policy are so blinded by protocol, plots and corporations, so tied up in intrigue, conspiracy and deception, and so invested in internal politics, promotions and postings, that they have lost sight of their primary role. Instead of being defenders of national sovereignty, they have become the agents and pimps who sell the very sovereignty that they are sworn to protent to the highest bidder.
Stopping support for militancy and troop withdrawals are two sensible initial steps towards a solution to the Kashmir dispute. It is not the magic wand that will make India and Pakistan the best of friends overnight, but it is a step in the right direction.
Interestingly, Ms Bucha makes no reference to Imran’s statement of his intent to recalibrate the relationship with the US to that of a friend, not a slave. I can only assume, and be grateful, that this is something she does not disagree with.
Driven by common sense
Increasing tax revenue requires more to people to pay the taxes that they owe and an end to corruption in tax collection authorities. It needs a simpler, fairer structure of direct taxes, where the rich business men, industrialists and landlords pay the vast majority of taxes. When Imran says that corruption is the underlying cause of almost all of the problems that our country faces, he is not exaggerating, and it is precisely this culture that he has made his number priority.
If Ms Bucha knew anything about taxation systems, she would understand why Imran was opposed to the introduction of value added tax. Indirect taxes on consumption, such as VAT, hit the least fortunate in society the hardest. They are based on the amount you spend, not the amount you earn. So, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. A further increase in the divide between the haves and the have-nots is the last thing our country needs.
On police reform, Ms Bucha has completely missed the boat. She has diluted Imran’s vision to a suggestion for “popular votes to appoint SHOs so people can have no complaints”. It is not simply “so people can have no complaints”, but is about empowering people at the grass-roots level so that they have the ability to hold their representatives accountable. Can she not see how much better it would be if SHOs were appointed based on how well the people of that area thought they had done in providing them a secure neighbourhood, instead of being dependent on how much rishwat had been paid by them to their superior authorities, or which political and/or criminal gang had the influence to secure their appointments? Like so much of what Imran says, it is common sense.
Ms Bucha also takes exception to Imran’s call for civil disobedience rather than seeking judicial intervention and relying on the laws in place to tackle misappropriations. Great idea! Given how well these laws are implemented in Pakistan, how independent the FIA and other investigative authorities are and how promptly the administration reacts to directives from the judiciary, of course that is the route Imran should take! By the way, how long did it take for the government to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen the money laundering cases after the Supreme Court order?
I applaud your anger, Ms Bucha, on having pumped trillions into the armed forces over the last few decades. Clearly, you care deeply about accountability within the military and are concerned about why Imran did not mention this.
The answer is simple: Imran has said numerous times that he wants to start with self-accountability and creation of an honest and committed leadership at the top level. When leadership is clean and sets clear expectations that corruption in their respective ministries and teams will not be acceptable and that corrupt officials will face harsh consequences, this culture will slowly start to permeate downwards. When civilian leadership builds its own credibility, they will then be able to challenge military big-wigs from a position of moral authority and demand that they set the same standards within the armed forces. Until the political leadership puts its own house in order, it will be very easy for the generals to continue their corrupt practices with impunity.
The bottom line
The solutions that Imran Khan has to offer are not perfect by any means. Implementing them will not be easy and some of the measures he proposes will take a very long time to implement. I have to agree that there are deficiencies in the detail that Imran and PTI have shared with respect to their policies, and I have to agree that some areas of their policies are, prima facie, flawed. However, broadly speaking, his vision is compelling and he is probably the only one who has been successful in articulating a vision for Pakistan. Even more importantly, he is the only one who we can trust to faithfully and diligently make an effort to formulate and execute strategies to achieve that vision.
The bottom line is this: Imran, with all his flaws and weaknesses, is the one and only beacon of hope that the moths of our desperation are being drawn to. He offers hope and the only other available option is despair. The others, whether it be PPP, PML-N, MQM or any of the alternatives, offer only corruption, mismanagement, ineptitude, nepotism, cronyism, economic ruin, inflation, unemployment, an energy crisis, global isolation and, ultimately, a failed state.
 Chatham House opinion poll published May 2010 entitled Kashmir: Paths to Peace