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Sharif’s ‘banana peel’ moment on Kashmir

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (File)

Sharif’s lack of talent to become a statesman reflect on his recent comments on Kashmir. He should re-read his country’s history, a short one though, and try to learn from the little hard lessons it presents … writes Manzoor Ahmed

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (File)
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (File)

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s boast the other day that Kashmir would become part of his country could have been laughable if it had come from any irresponsible person. But Prime Minister Sharif holds the high office of the Prime Minister of a sovereign country and is not expected to be irresponsible in his choice of words and statements.  But since Sharif did make this statement, it is reveals his mind-set, his attitude and a colossal failure of his premiership staring at him.

Indian Foreign Minister Ms Sushma Swaraj gave a befitting reply when she said Mr Sharif would then have to wait beyond eternity. But the most stinging comment came from one of his country’s English newspapers (The Daily Times) which called Sharif’s urge or plea as “wishful thinking“. The newspaper said, without mincing much words, that “”It has become a norm for politicians to make unrealistic claims and repeat popular phrases for getting votes“. The daily said politicians “ utter these statements to win the masses’ support and the people continue to suffer due to this mentality.“

The newspaper report did not pause here and asked, if such an event were to happen, what could Pakistan offer to “ Kashmiris when it is still coping with numerous challenges that are posing a threat to its own stability?” The report said Pakistan should give up the dream of “capturing more land“ and focus on the welfare of its people.

Prime Minister Sharif should answer two quick questions on his assertions. First, how does he propose to do what he promised? And second, why would Kashmiri like to be part of Pakistan? I am sure he knows his country, and his army had been trying to cut Kashmir off the Indian mainland for decades now, starting from days after gaining independence, all with no success. Pakistan has not only lost thousands of men in these wars and property but also prestige. Prime Minister Sharif would certainly remember the 90000-odd Pakistani prisoners whom India returned as “farewell gift“ after the 1971 war.

Mr Sharif would also recall that, in the process of getting Kashmir, his country lost a chunk of his own territory, the East Pakistan. He should re-read his country’s history, a short one though, and try to learn from the little hard lessons it presents.

Of course, it was another Prime Minister, ZA Bhutto, who declared that in a fit of impotent rage, that he would inflict a “thousand cuts“ on India. Prime Minister Sharif is free to look around and see where the wounds really landed. The marks of deep, bleeding wounds are visibly clear all over the landscape which he presides over as the Prime Minister. He just needs to get out of his palatial bungalow and his bulletproof armoured personal car to smell the acrid smell of his country slowly smouldering on its edges.

Besides these lessons in history, and geography, he need to think, as The Daily Times reminded him, what is he going to tell the Kashmiris? Is Pakistan a paradise for Kashmiris? Will they get good jobs there, large farms to till or set up orchards? Will all of them have freedom to pray and worship? These are tough questions but answers are not that tough.

Kashmiris living in the occupied territory would testify to the simple fact that their lives have been miserable since 1948. They are today second class citizens of the country which they accidentally chose to become part of; they cannot get their children to good schools simply because there are no good schools in the occupied territory; they cannot get good jobs because there are no economic activities worth its name to generate jobs. The only flourishing industry is jihad and the occupied territory is littered with training camps of several terrorist groups and their lifeline is short, woefully short.

And, Prime Minister Sharif would not be able to guarantee you the basic freedom of worship if you happen to be a Shia or an Ahmadi. Shias, as is well known, have been targeted for decades now, forcing them to live a subjugated life in a country which they heartily adopted as a “nation for Muslims“. Ahmadis are in worse position; they are treated as heretics and they cannot get government jobs, cannot vote, cannot stand for elections and have to live like slaves. Or hide their religious affiliation.

It is no secret either that Pakistan has no place for Sufis, pirs, dargahs and anything which goes against the tenets of radical Islam which the state promotes and supports. It is clear that Pakistan has no place for Kashmiris either. Ask Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif?

Prime Minister Sharif knows all these and much more; he has been an astute politician for decades now. But he is desperate today. His popularity has plummeted. His grip over the government has been shaky since General Raheel Sharif, a man whom he appointed, has been calling all the good shots. Since economic development of his country was never high on his agenda of things to do once he was elected with a thumping majority, Pakistan remains an impoverished country saddled with Generals with a gargantuan appetite for money and power and machismo of a C Grade movie.

So when Sharif and his party got a surprising (shocking) win in the occupied Kashmir, he saw an opportunity to hoist himself from the dark abyss of failure he was fast slipping into. There is only one word which every failed politician or General utters as a “life mantra“, that is K for Kashmir. By doing so, Prime Minister Sharif has told the world that he has failed his people.