India’s revoking of Articles 370 and 35A to absorb the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union was not liked by anyone across the world. The most effective objection came from India’s own secularists and liberals who took note of the rise of Hindutva under the BJP government as destructive of the very foundation of India. The main cause of worry for most writers was the possibility of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan reacted passionately but much of this passion was “political” as the Opposition attacked the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, rather than India. Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said his army would stand by the government in power, and by the people of Kashmir. Imran Khan convened a joint session of parliament and made a bold statement telling India that if war was to ensue it would be a nuclear war and that “Pakistan was ready for it” — for the rights of the Kashmiris. But the Opposition, mainly the PML(N) of Nawaz Sharif and the PPP of Bilawal Bhutto, was not prepared to give him relief. They attacked him for coming late to the session — as if he didn’t care that the Kashmiris were suffering — and castigated him for the absence of his foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
PM Khan doesn’t grace the parliament too often because of the bad blood between him and the Opposition leaders. When the proceedings started, everything the government benches did was rejected. Khan was uncomfortable and would have left the house, as is his wont, had the occasion not been serious in the eyes of his public following. He once threw up his hands and said, “What would you have me do, attack India?”
On the TV channels it was sheer national self-flagellation. Everyone in the streets who was asked to speak, simply wanted a war in which the Hindus were to be taught a lesson. The common man simply repeated the nationalist mantra of hatred — the same way the supporters of the BJP do in the streets of India. Opposition leaders appearing on TV were anti-government to the extreme. The PML(N) politicians, whose leader Nawaz Sharif had once welcomed the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore and later welcomed Prime Minister Modi too, now cursed Khan for having welcomed Modi before he had even been elected.
Imran Khan had then said: “Perhaps if the BJP — a right-wing party — wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached”. Now the PML(N) was not ready to forgive him. Today, these words were held against him by politicians more interested in ousting the Pakistan government than ousting India from Kashmir. The world outside didn’t like what transpired as expressed by the The New York Times editorial: “The Indian government’s decision to revoke the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir, accompanied by a huge security clampdown, is dangerous and wrong”. Outrageously, the “Arab friends” were unmoved.
Everyone cursed the government for not actively pursuing the UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation — as if all these organisations were actually groups of men sitting in a room with doors locked which the government of Pakistan was supposed to simply break down, and tell the shirkers to do the needful to teach India a lesson. Alas, Pakistan’s non-state actors were nowhere to be seen, removed from the battlefront by an international opinion more worried about their global outreach than the Muslims of Kashmir. The outrage over the statement of the ambassador of the UAE, that it was an internal matter of India, was muffled because most of the remittances come from the Pakistanis working there. As realism slowly dawns, Prime Minister Khan should stick to his earlier perception that he could make a deal with the BJP and make that telephone call which was rebuffed earlier. Perhaps, this time, Prime Minister Modi will pick up.
The writer is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan