Post-dated Cheque on a Bank That Doesn’t Exist
This sums up the ‘pledge’ of Pakistan’s ‘selected’ Prime Minister Imran Khan to the people of Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK), that after the people of the erstwhile state decide in favour of Pakistan in a UN mandated referendum, his government will hold a second referendum giving the people a choice between wanting to become a part of Pakistan or become an independent state. Imran Khan had caused a bit of a kerfuffle when he made a similar promise a few months back. As such, this time he has only repeated that ‘promise’ on the eve of ‘elections’ in the Pakistani occupied territory.
Although the opposition parties have gone after Imran and accused him of moving away from Pakistan’s ‘historic stance’ of “Kashmir Banega Pakistan”, the ‘selected’ PM and his cronies are unrepentant. They quote Article 257 of Pakistan’s much abused constitution to justify what Imran said. According to this article: When the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that state shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that state.
It is of course inconceivable that Pakistan which doesn’t even allow free and fair elections in the occupied territories of PoJK and Pakistan-occupied Ladakh, (PoL-also known as Gilgit Baltistan), will allow a second referendum granting Kashmir’s independence and that too after they vote for accession to Pakistan. The blatant rigging and vote fraud done by Imran and his selectors, first in PoL and now in PoJK should be evidence enough of what goes for elections in Pakistan and territories occupied by it. Even so, Imran Khan’s substance abuse now seems to be reaching a point where delusions are dictating his utterances. Quite clearly, Imran Khan is living in an alternate reality and the yes-men surrounding him are only amplifying whatever nonsense he spouts.
Unless the people of PoJK are totally deluded, they will know that Imran’s promise is a pie in the sky being sold to them. First, there is not a chance of the UN referendum being held. The time for that has long gone. Second, even if for the sake of argument, we accept that a UN supervised plebiscite will be held, it is unlikely to happen in Imran Khan’s tenure. Clearly, given his megalomania, Imran thinks he will be PM of Pakistan for the rest of his life. But considering the mess he has made in just three years; it doesn’t seem as if his selectors will be ready to give him another term. His promise that his government will hold a second referendum is, therefore, not worth a farthing because he will probably be in the dustbin of history in not too distant a future.
Third, the constitutional article Imran’s cronies quote doesn’t talk of allowing secession. All it is talking about is determining the constitutional arrangement between J&K and Pakistan, sort of Article 370 if you will. Only Imran Khan could indulge in a flight of fancy and imagine it to extend to offering independence to J&K. Of course, it really doesn’t cost anything to make this promise because as said earlier, there will be no plebiscite to start with, nor will there be an Imran Khan to uphold his fake pledge. In any case, given Imran Khan’s record for making U-turns on virtually everything he said earlier, only someone completely devoid of any brains will take him on his words.
If indeed Imran Khan is serious about his so-called pledge, he should have insisted that the restrictions on contesting elections on those in PoJK who oppose accession to Pakistan should be lifted. Far from doing that, he unleashed his political hounds to steal the election in PoJK. Forget about allowing people opposed to Pakistan from contesting elections, the Pakistanis don’t even allow them to protest against Pakistani occupation. To expect such a regime to give J&K the option of independence is to really expect the moon.
More importantly, Imran hasn’t made it clear if the second referendum offer is only for PoJK or also for PoL. Given that PoL links Pakistan to China and CPEC passes through that strategically critical area, there is absolutely no question of Pakistan ever allowing any autonomy, much less independence to this part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. In fact, there have been reports that China has been pressurizing Pakistan to formalise the annexation of PoL to end the uncertainty over that area.
In the case of PoJK, there have been suggestions in the past, including by some generals, to hold a unilateral referendum in the Pakistan occupied portions and on that basis annex the territory. Once again it isn’t clear if such a referendum, if it were ever to be held would be a two stage one – first stage being a choice between India and Pakistan and the second being a choice between Pakistan and independence. Nor is there any clarity about whether this referendum would be under the auspices of the UN or Pakistan will hold it on its own. The UN is unlikely to sanctify such an exercise because it has no mandate for it. But if such a referendum was to be held by Pakistan on its own, it would have no legitimacy whatsoever. India in any case would dismiss such an exercise with the contempt it deserves. In the end, it would be nothing more than a pointless exercise that has neither any legitimacy nor any validity.
So why then did Imran Khan even make this offer or pledge? If his delusions are discounted, then there are just two possible explanations: one, it was a political ploy to reach out to a large number of people who are opposed to Pakistani occupation and who could be seduced to vote for Imran’s party with this rather vague, even unlikely, promise; two, there was an element of diplomatic gamesmanship or one-upmanship to try and signal to the world that Pakistan was not covetous of J&K and was open to the ‘third-option’ (independence) if the UN plebiscite ever took place.
The theft of the election by goons of PTI and their Khaki-clad enforcers has put paid to both the diplomatic ploy as well as the outreach to disgruntled Kashmiris in PoJK. The killing of protestors has led to massive outcry which is of course being suppressed by Pakistan’s slavish media. Even so, slogans of ‘Azadi’ and ‘khudmukhtari’ are ringing throughout PoJK.
Has a point of inflexion been reached? It might be a trifle pre-mature to reach that conclusion just yet. But if indeed things start spiraling out of control in PoJK, then it will be all thanks to Imran Khan who first held out the promise of independence and then stole an election.
Sushant Sareen is Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation and Consultant Editor, Chanakya Forum. He is an expert on Pakistan and Terrorism, his published works include Balochistan: Forgotten War, Forsaken People (2017), Corridor Calculus: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor & China’s Comprador model of investment in Pakistan (2016).
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.
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