By Arun Joshi
Frightening images of rioting emerging from Pakistan and the failure of the government to curb violence born out of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik or TLP ‘s call for action against those who indulged in acts of blasphemy in the western world have portents of dislocating its immediate foreign policy objectives of repairing ties with India.
These fears are rooted in the history of Pakistan . as and when internal troubles rock Pakistan , it impacts Indo-Pak ties . In 2007, when lawyers launched anti-Gen. Pervez Musharraf protests following dismissal of the chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary , a hoped-for Kashmir solution retreated to the obscurity worsened by the 26/11 .
This time the protests by the TLP are violent in its nature and shape- not only the clashes have thrown normal life out of gear, the Islamist party’s activists have taken policemen hostage, tortured some of them before releasing them after intense negotiations . the Government of Imran Khan is preoccupied in dealing with the crises at home by pandering to the extremist groups in more than one ways . On the other, it is struggling to retain the image of normalcy before the international community. But the world is less than convinced. French embassy in Pakistan has asked French nationals to leave Pakistan for they run the risk to their lives.
More intriguing is the timing of the protests . The rioting has struck Pakistan at a time when there are attempts by India and Pakistan to repair their ties that got frayed after the February 14, 2019 , Pulwama attack and the subsequent hostile acts against each other . The UAE has worked behind the doors to bring about some initiatives that could lead to improvement in relations between two nuclear armed neighbouring countries in South Asia . It has already facilitated a recommitment to the November 26, 2003 ceasefire at the Line of Control that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has exhibited optimism that the positive development of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wishing for “ cordial” relations with Pakistan on his country’s national day on March 23 and equally positive response of Imran Khan have boosted the hopes of ties improving between the two countries. He , however, told an interviewer of Khaleej Times that the positivity of the relationship depends on the resolution of Kashmir issue. While he put the onus on India for creating conducive atmosphere for the future dialogue and progress thereof, but the real fear is that whether the Islamists would allow Islamabad to move ahead in this direction .
In diplomacy , the internal situation of any country affects the foreign policy. That’s truer in the case of the countries involved in conflict , and India and Pakistan find themselves in this frame because of their history of hostility between the two ever since the Partition on various issues, especially Kashmir.
The threat of recurrence of such volatile situation is not ruled out because of a series of problems persisting in Pakistan – the growing fissures between opposition and Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-Insaaf government, split within the opposition ranks , and the growing extremism as also the divisions within the army into pro and anti Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa camps..
This is an unmistakable sign of weakened state of Pakistan . The government’s control is close to zero as t few sections in the army have started questioning his handling of the situation during riots and addressing issues of the protestors . They are demanding his removal by the army in the interest of the nation .
As the internal situation in Pakistan has alarmed the world, because it demonstrates rise of Islamic extremism in Pakistan that can have repercussions beyond its borders . In its immediate neighbourhood Afghanistan where Taliban has become a power to reckon with and retains the potential to cause extreme destabilization in the country is a byproduct of the extremism.. Taliban and TLP are same . They want to replace the existing systems with the extremist ideology . Once the forces of extremism gain further steam in Pakistan and Afghanistan , it would inevitably chain Pakistan government’s capacity and capability to deal with its foreign policy goals in a cohesive manner .
Since India has already tasted the spill over of Pakistani extremism in Kashmir , it will act more cautiously . It has not overlooked the fact that how a progressive step of resumption of Indo-Pak trade was retreated post haste . That was a division within the government set up , but essentially it was done under the influence of the extremist forces that are having sizeable say in the establishment over there.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune.
He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with the www.prameyanews.com