The Assassination attempt on Imran Khan Dramatically raised the stakes and changed the nature of the challenge he posed to the ruling establishment in Pakistan.
Until now, Pakistan has been seen more on the sports pages of the Indian media than on the front page. That may have to change as the headline news from Pakistan this November marks another turning point not only in the country’s history but also in regional politics and security.
Senator Imran Khan was injured in an assassination attempt @Faisal Javed Khan Specially speaking. #Amran_John_Himary_Rich_Logan_in pic.twitter.com/PyrgQoeTs7
— PTI (@PTIofficial) November 3, 2022
Khan, a former prime minister and chairman of the opposition political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), is on a long march to Islamabad, challenging the legitimacy of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government, which they also hope. Creating divisions in the leadership of the Pakistan Armed Forces. Ahead of Thursday’s attack, Khan’s march is expected to reach the outskirts of Islamabad in the next few days, while another major event is the retirement of Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa at the end of November.
Will Khan’s siege of Islamabad end? Will Bajwa retire and ride off into the sunset or will there be some sort of military revival in Pakistani politics? Can politicians like Khan and Sharif come up with some kind of compromise that will give the country a breather? Will the army topple Sharif and go back to supporting Khan? Are Pakistan’s political parties and armed forces the only ones in the game, or do outside players — China, the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have any skin in the game?
As Pakistan is mired in economic crisis, implementation of the International Monetary Fund’s fiscal and structural adjustment program is vital. Will political instability and developments in the next few weeks affect the economy? What role can the judiciary play at a time when other key institutions of the state are being challenged? Will all this affect India and regional security?
These and many other questions are being posed and examined by analysts of Pakistan affairs in the region and around the world. It is a pity that the Indian media has not posted a single correspondent in the country to report directly at a time like this. While the print media at least occasionally provides a professional perspective on developments in Pakistan, the electronic media has turned Pakistan’s reporting and analysis into a soap opera, circus and mere propaganda.
Hence, it is not surprising that even though some Indian analysts have mentioned that Pakistan will be moved from gray to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) black list, it has finally been removed from the gray list as well. The US followed up the gesture with the resumption of defense supplies and Western diplomats began wooing Pakistani politicians. The time has come for some in the ruling elite in New Delhi to argue that India has succeeded in “isolating” Pakistan internationally. In contrast, Pakistan today enjoys reasonably good relations with the US, China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Britain and Russia.
In the past, outside the security and intelligence agencies, India’s body of experts on Pakistan consisted of two well-informed groups: diplomats and journalists. Many diplomats distinguished themselves after retirement, writing informative commentary on the country. Some of the best recent books on China and Pakistan have been authored by former diplomats, intelligence officers and senior defense personnel.
However, Indian academic scholarship is inadequate and dwindling. There are many good historians with access to archives, especially in Britain, who have written interesting books in the past, but fewer who have informed publications on Pakistan’s contemporary economy, politics, ethnicity, social, cultural and other disciplines. The era of senior journalists being posted or traveling frequently to Pakistan and socializing with politicians, intellectuals and journalists is sadly over. The interaction between people has decreased significantly at the cultural and social level as well.
Lack of access due to restrictions on travel and, more importantly, limited interaction with the current generation of scholars have become barriers to better information about what is happening in Pakistan. Rumors, improprieties, obfuscations, biases fill the vacuum created by the lack of information, professional and systematic reporting and analysis.
To Cribb Faser#ARYNews pic.twitter.com/fDQy9SyjWR
— ARY NEWS (@ARYNEWSOFFICIAL) November 3, 2022
Just over two decades ago, India’s first National Security Advisory Council (of which I was a member) chaired by strategic affairs guru late K Subrahmanyam met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and suggested that the government should provide high quality funding. Recruiting subject matter experts to study research institutes, China and Pakistan. It is emphasized that such subject experts – economists, defense analysts, scientists, sociologists and political scientists – should be familiar with Mandarin, for the study of China, and Urdu, for the study of Pakistan.
A study of China and Russia reveals how the United States invests in domestic scholarship, outside the government, and how Chinese researchers are filling vacancies in American research institutions to study the US rather than study their own country from the US (as do many Indian and Indian American scholars at American institutions). ! Prime Minister Vajpayee immediately shook his head and turned to his colleagues seated on either side, saying that this was an important suggestion.
Since then the government has invested some in the study of China, but few who work in these institutions know the language or have had the opportunity to spend enough time in the country. However, in the face of increasing focus on China, India’s Pakistan scholarship is now woefully inadequate.
In any event, such scholarship and informational news reporting and analysis cannot occur in an intellectual vacuum created by limited social interaction. Diplomatic deadlock, travel restrictions, and paranoia about interaction between intellectual and patriotic nationals virtually stopped any small interaction until a decade ago.
Although two bright young journalists are now posted in China, reporting from the rest of South Asia is weak and dependent on Western news agencies. A nation and society living in ignorance of its own neighbors cannot be expected to play an important part in the destiny of its neighbors. Although the official policy is Neighborhood First.
The author is a policy analyst