Written by- Jaideep Verma
Forget about the likes of Arnab Goswami who howl – “If you’re impressed by Imran Khan, get out of my country!” This is about pretty much all of the media, including, to my dismay, NDTV and particularly Mirror Now, who have been succumbing to old cliches about Imran Khan and even Pakistan without updating their perception with below-the-nose evidence.
Don’t know if it’s our education system, the dumbing down that Bollywood has effected or simply the air in our country, but the utter lack of flexibility and imagination missing from our discourses on Pakistan is the most disconcerting thing about the events of the last few days. The basic understanding that Imran Khan represents a huge break from the past for Pakistan seems to have become a mid-pitch bouncer hitting the sight-screen behind the stumps.
There is absolutely nothing surprising about how Imran Khan has conducted himself during this crisis and every single thing he has said and done is predictable. It is completely consistent with how he has conducted himself in the last few years, regardless of how even the Pakistani media has repeatedly portrayed him in that period. It stems from two inarguable facts – there is no head-of-state anywhere in the world today who has a greater record of humanism than Imran Khan (pls see first comment if you don’t know what I am talking about). And there is no head-of-state anywhere who has been hailed as the greatest leader in his field before he joined politics. Add to this the incorruptibility he is known for, even among his detractors.
And yet, old cliches about him are still being constantly repeated like sheep. Im the Dim. Playboy. The standards of the past are being applied to Imran Khan as PM. Puppet of the army. Aiding terrorism. Despite there being zero indication so far that he is any of those things. A man who hasn’t taken orders from anyone in 36 years is suddenly going to become a puppet? A man who spent 20 years trying to do politics fiercely his way, for better or for worse, is suddenly going to change his spurs? No Pakistani PM in the past has behaved with such awareness of civilised norms of behaviour as he has in the last few days; hell, no Indian PM has either, not in the last 50 years anyway. Does his constant communication, the clarity and intent – does it look like the result of his taking dictation?
And no, he did not need to release Wing Commander Abhinandan yet. The Geneva Convention does NOT demand that until hostilities have completely ceased. And no, it has not been because of Trump; in his first few months as PM, Imran Khan reset Pakistan’s relationship with the US or did you miss that? (pls see the second comment). This IS a genuine peace gesture (again, consistent with past behaviour from Imran and entirely predictable) and it shouldn’t cause us ego problems to accept that. Let’s not kid ourselves that India would have made the same gesture if our troops had captured a Pakistani solider. And if you think it is out of fear, you know nothing about him, but it is nothing you can’t rectify with a little effort of just reading and watching his old interviews.
Please see his address to the parliament yesterday (below) where he candidly lays out the entire sequence of events that led to this crisis. Note how specifically he mentions the multi-party consensus (National Action Plan) to not harbour terrorists in Pakistani territory, regardless of what policies previous regimes had. He actually says that last bit. Can you appreciate the extra mile one has to go to say such things, and what new enemies one makes while saying that? And the domestic political capital he risks losing when he talks about not retaliating after India has transgressed into their border, and even returning Wng Cmdr Abhinandan at this juncture? Please see how everybody is steadfastly behind him. This is not an ordinary moment.
It is hugely in India’s interest to stop harking back to the older Pakistani leaders who behaved very differently (I shudder thinking about how Musharraf or Zardari would have reacted to this). Yes, a lot happened then to justify calling Pakistan a “rogue state” but perhaps enough has happened now for all of us to at least give Imran Khan the benefit of the doubt. And what he says about Kashmir too here is extremely pertinent in the light of the breathtaking escalation that has happened there in the last four years – a 176% rise in terrorism, for god’s sake (pls see the third comment below; it’s an India Today link).
This is the best moment for a reset with Pakistan. Unfortunately, this is not going to be reciprocated by the BJP (more about that later) but can we, common citizens, the media, people who care for peace, just give it this one last shot, by just giving Pakistan’s new voice the benefit of doubt for just a little while. Because if we squander this chance, this moment may not come again anytime soon.
1) Sorry to self-reference, but there is nothing else I could find online that puts all these FACTS together.
2) Pakistan-US relations reset. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/imran-khan-pakistan-will-no…/…
3) Kashmir between 2014 and 2018. https://www.indiatoday.in/…/pulwama-terror-attack-jammu-kas…