Was Imran Khan’s Speech A Game Changer For Kashmir?
Imran Khan is an excellent marketer and did not disappoint when he hyped his UN General Assembly to be a historic event. Before we talk about his speech, let us first talk about the man and the moment.
First, the man. For Imran Khan, a victory is everything and no ideology or principle can stand in the way of it. Whenever he goes outside Pakistan, his dress, demeanour, and speech changes. In Pakistan, he is an angry man, but outside he projects an image of a refined man to his international fan base.
Which one is the real Imran Khan? Both are real because it helps him win. His ambition could be to become the leader of the Muslim Ummah and his speech yesterday was focused on that. I have no problem with it as I think it is about time Pakistan produced leaders who would have a high international stature, but that would require building our nation first.
Second, the moment. The world is transitioning from unipolar to a multipolar one with many players vying for influence. Countries are realigning their relations before they settle into the stability of a new Cold War between the two top players, American and China. Traditional politicians have lost the trust of the people and are being replaced by non-political populists or extreme right-wing fundamentalists.
The Muslim world, with a youth bulge, is rising against proxies of the former colonialists and demanding recreation of their social and political order. Pakistan has experienced that as well in the last elections. We are going through a tough phase as the economy is in dire straits, politics is polarized, and tensions are escalating on all our borders.
In terms of delivery, it was a great speech. Imran Khan did not stammer or struggle for words and maintained an even tempo. The delivery had a smooth flow; from international issues to Kashmir. In terms of content, it was a speech by a philanthropist rather than the head of a government. He highlighted the issues and absolved himself from any responsibility to solve any of them. He demanded others to solve these issues for him.
He highlighted the three international issues of climate change, money laundering, and Islamophobia. Climate change is something with which one can totally agree with him. Imran Khan has also walked the talk by initiating a billion-tree program.
Moreover, corruption money is not just stashed in the West, but also in UAE and Malaysia as well. This has to change and Khan has not done anything about it, rather, there are allegations that he has himself benefited from it. Him talking about money laundering was just empty rhetoric and nothing else. Also, Islamophobia is a thing of the past as it was a tool used by the West to remake the Middle East. That objective is almost complete so now they are phasing out of it. They rather need Islamic countries as allies to deal with rising China.
Both Imran Khan and Sheikh Rasheed should be barred from uttering the word nuclear weapons. Imran Khan in his UNGA speech warned (he called it a ‘worry’ but it might be considered a threat by some) that nuclear weapons would be used in a war with India. How would the world powers interpret this warning? Some might resolve that a weak economy and politically unstable country should not have these weapons.
Our conventional forces are professional and capable enough to deal with Indian aggression as is evident after Pulwama. We are a nuclear power which means we don’t have to remind anyone we would use them. This repeated reference to nuclear weapons could create a national security danger for Pakistan.
Imran Khan hyped that his UNGA speech would be a game changer for Kashmir. In his speech, Kashmir was not his main concern. He could not achieve any major milestone for this objective during his five days long stay in New York. Yes, he did meet a lot of people and spoke at many think tanks. But no tangible actions materialized from all this. Meanwhile, the Acting US Assistant Secretary of State, Alice Wells, expressed concerns about curfew in Kashmir without any concrete proposals to deal with the issue. She has rather advised Pakistan to tame their rhetoric and engage in a dialogue.
Imran Khan has lowered the bar for a dialogue with India. He has demanded the lifting of curfew in Kashmir as a condition to talk. That will eventually happen and all signs are clear that the world might end up pressurising Pakistan to accept the status quo.
Here is the harsh reality that we have to live with. Until August, International media used a dotted line on the map to represent Indian occupied Kashmir. That dotted line is now gone.
Imran Khan should come back home and build a better nation if he wants to achieve his ambition of becoming a leader of the Ummah. In one year of his tenure, he has been all talk, broken promises and nothing to show for good governance.