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A frustated State

Pakistan’s attempts to rehabilitate its international image continue in desperation

A frustated State
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Pakistan's consistency in maintaining double standards continues unabated. On one hand, it cries hoarse on alleged atrocities by the Indian forces in Kashmir and repression of human rights, while on the other, it condones the large scale oppression perpetrated by the Chinese against the Uighurs in the Western Chinese province of Xinjiang. This aberration came to sharp focus in a recent statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In a bizarre articulation, Imran Khan came in fierce defence of China by stating that his government refrained from criticising China as Islamabad and Beijing are committed friends.

Imran Khan also exposed his amateurish approach by openly admitting that he did not comprehend much about the happenings within China when compared to the happenings in Kashmir. When cornered by the interviewer, about detention of more than a million of Uighurs in China, Imran Khan alleged killings of nearly 100,000 people in Kashmir in the last three decades.

In an Indian context, Imran Khan challenged Prime Minister Modi and the USA to share pinpointed locations in Pakistan where India and the US suspected presence of terrorist camps. Reeling under a denial mode, the Pakistani Prime Minister denied charges of presence of any Haqqani terror network on Pakistani soil.

Meanwhile, it has become increasingly clear that Pakistan chose to utilise the proceedings of a forum like Davos Summit in highlighting perceived highhandedness in Kashmir rather than airing the economic downslides that the nation is currently facing. Capitalising on President Trump's presence in Davos, Imran Khan obviously tried to provoke Trump for mediation in Kashmir for which Trump perhaps conveyed a very feeble and halfhearted response. This comes in the wake of Islamabad's failure to get any support from the Membership of the UN Security Council when its so-called friend, China attempted to raise the 15 nation council. Much to the frustration of Pakistan, there was a clear cut consensus among the rest of the council members that Kashmir is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan. The Indian representative at the UN, while rebutting Pakistani charges on excesses in Kashmir, clearly stated that Pakistan always indulged in confabulations and obfuscates the international community from the truth instead of putting an end to the bellicose and vitriolic diatribe. Such muscular diplomatic tenor on part of the Indian representatives seemed imperative to counter Pakistan's baseless allegations.

Trying to act smart even after a slew of diplomatic setbacks, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi disclosed (January 23) in Islamabad that Pakistan was on the brink of launching a new robust information campaign to counter the "deceptive" Indian narrative on Kashmir. It would, therefore, seem that Pakistan is aggressively pursuing belligerent psychological warfare against India to outwit the Indian campaign to show the world that all is well with Kashmir. It appears the Foreign Minister, in close collaboration with the members of the Deep State, has embarked on a systematic propaganda offensive which is structured and lists out a well laid out date-wise programme commencing from January 25 in this regard. This also displays how desperately Pakistan is engaged in anti Indian propaganda.

On the domestic front, criticisms galore in the Pakistani press about the country's failure in containing the situation arising out of developments connected with Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Also, the internal ills have started surfacing in hammer and tongs. There is a phenomenal rise in the price of essential food items as well as medicines. Experts say that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and the pharmaceutical companies are arbitrarily increasing the prices and the government is unable to exercise any control over their nexus.

Other than this, in the summer, gas and power price hikes jolted the government. This time they blamed it on the IMF and on the accumulated circular debt left behind by the previous government. But quietly, under the radar of the crushing inflation that these price hikes unleashed, the government reaped a solid dividend in the shape of increased revenue collection. There was a massive hike in July in gas prices, another in September and then a request came for an additional hike in December that has been put off given the ongoing wheat price uproar. Once the dust settles, a gas price increase that could be as high as 221pc for some category of consumers is lying in wait. Power pricing was increased under what they call a "full-cost recovery" formula, which is a fancy and technical way of saying that the price of power that is lost or stolen should be recovered from those consumers. These facts are very well covered by an article written by columnist Khurram Husain on Jan 23, 2020.

In the meantime, Pakistan claims to have raised its comfort level after its 18 member delegation under Economic Affairs Minister, M. Azhar returned to Islamabad on January 24 from Beijing after holding extensive parleys to extricate itself from the FATF imposed grey list. It has presented a 650 odd page report to be shared with all the 39 member states of the FATF as the crucial dates of February 16 to 25 draw closer. It was surprising that world powers like the US, the UK, Japan, Australia, etc., didn't display any indication on noting significant improvements in Pakistan's tainted record of money laundering or terror financing.

Pakistani leadership is believed to have held talks with the Taliban leaders engaged in talks with the US to arrive at a truce and an impression was given to the US principal interlocutor, Zalmay Khalilzad that Pakistan has brokered some deal to prevail upon Afghan Taliban to agree to a peace deal facilitating US troops' withdrawal from the Afghan soil.

Pakistan is also apprehensive about the growing warmth between India and Afghanistan, chiefly due to India's engagement policy with Kabul and huge investments in the developmental projects there. There are many Uzbeg and Uighur IS backed terrorists in Afghanistan who have embedded themselves with the terror activities and are unlikely to return to their respective countries. Pakistan has reportedly told the US that it could help contain such terror elements but in reality, it doesn't seem to be the case.

Shantanu Mukharji is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst, a columnist and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are strictly personal

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