With his back to the wall, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan faces the unenviable task of responding to India’s decision on revoking special status to J&K even as his country’s Opposition has slammed him for his “complete failure” in handling the Kashmir issue.
Khan is backed by the powerful Pakistan Army but after being caught on the backfoot politically, has resorted to extreme rhetoric bordering on war-mongering and provocative diplomatic steps. On Thursday, for instance, he called for nationwide demonstrations Friday noon on J&K.
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But behind Khan’s responses — downgrading of diplomatic ties with India, suspending bilateral trade and reviewing bilateral arrangements like stopping the bus and train services — is sharp criticism from his country’s political leadership across the aisle.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Shehbaz Sharif has accused Khan of “selling the future of Kashmir”. During a joint session of the National Assembly, Sharif, who is the brother of incarcerated former PM Nawaz Sharif, also alleged that top Opposition leaders were being arrested to divert public attention from the Kashmir issue.
Referring to the recent arrest of Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz, Sharif said: “The Opposition created an atmosphere of harmony after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to strip… Kashmir of its special status. But the government, with the arrest of Maryam, shredded that unity.”
Maryam, who is seen as Nawaz’s political heir, also lashed out at Khan, wondering if he had “walked into a trap”. “We, the people of Pakistan, must be told what commitments were sought by & given to the U.S. by Imran Khan. Was the offer for mediation a trap that you walked into & gloated over, or you as usual had no clue about what was being planned by the enemy?” she posted on Twitter.
“You, Mr. Khan, r so obsessed & occupied with fixing yr political rivals that u became completely & criminally oblivious to the challenges that have engulfed Pakistan. U have wreaked irreversible damage not only to the country but to Kashmiris who needed a strong Pak to support them,” she tweeted.
Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, said the country “lost Kashmir” due to the incompetency of Khan’s government. “Earlier, Pakistan’s policy used to be how to take Srinagar from India. Now, due to the failure of the Imran Khan government, the position is how we can save Muzaffarabad (capital of PoK),” he said.
Bilawal said Khan knew that the scrapping of J&K’s special status was on the BJP’s election manifesto but did not take any action. “This is a strategic blunder. The government does not have any excuse… When it comes to the Opposition, Khan projects himself as lion, but in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he is timid and becomes a scared cat,” he said.
India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of key provisions of Article 370 was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to “accept the reality”. Now, Khan is left with little room, and had decided to raise the issue on various international platforms, including the UN.