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Why Imran Khan is stoking war hysteria over Kashmir move

On August 5, the Narendra Modi government issued a Presidential Order under Article 370 and ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The government said the integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India is now complete. Pakistan called it annexation of Kashmir by India and its prime minister; Imran Khan threatened India the very next day with another war using nuclear weapons.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir as Pakistan has repeatedly attempted to take the region by force, failing every time. In his Independence Day speech, Imran Khan raised the clamour for war a notch higher saying, the time has arrived to teach you (India) a lesson.

Except for Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister of Pakistan and a veteran in nation’s politics, other members of the Imran Khan government have repeated the war rhetoric of their prime minister. Qureshi, on more than one occasion, said Pakistan should not have an illusion that the world, including Islamic countries, would support it over Kashmir.

One minister went on to announce that war between India and Pakistan would begin in October-November this year, at the start of winter it is highly unlikely unless Pakistan is planning an attack in the Punjab-Rajasthan-Gujarat segment of the International Border. Mountains of Jammu and Kashmir present too harsh a weather for war in winters.

Pakistan last Thursday tested a nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Ghaznavi with a range of up to 290 km. The news was announced by Pakistan military, which is incidentally the only entity backing the Imran Khan government.

The war rhetoric has increased in recent days in the backdrop of growing isolation of Pakistan in the international arena and of the Imran Khan government within Pakistan.

Opposition leaders, who criticised the Modi government for revoking special status of Jammu and Kashmir initially, changed their track sensing Imran Khan was going overboard to message Pakistan Army’s ego at a time when country’s economy is in dire straits. Bankruptcy is in sight. Pakistan has barely managed to stave off defaulter’s tag with foreign aid.

Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the chief of main opposition–the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz–accused Imran Khan of selling the future of Kashmir. Another PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz now under arrest exposed Imran Khan’s Kashmir policy post-Article 370 with a series of tweets earlier this month.

Maryam, who is seen as Nawaz Sharif’s political heir, said Imran Khan was clueless when he sought US mediation in Kashmir during his meeting with President Donald Trump in July. She said, “Was the offer for mediation a trap that you walked into and gloated over, or you as usual (you) had no clue about what was being planned by the enemy?”

You, Mr Khan, are so obsessed and occupied with fixing the political rivals that you became completely and criminally oblivious to the challenges that have engulfed Pakistan. You have wreaked irreversible damage not only to the country but to Kashmiris who needed a strong Pakistan to support them; she tweeted complaining that Imran Khan had weakened separatists in Jammu and Kashmir.

Bilawal Bhutto, Pakistan People’s Party chief and the son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and former President Asif Ali Zardari, said due to incompetence of the Imran Khan government, Pakistan would have to recalibrate its strategy to save Muzaffarabad (capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir).

Already pushed to the wall, the Opposition’s onslaught left Imran Khan with little option than resorting to war rhetoric to save his standing in public, which have been complaining of hardship as Pakistan continues to sink deeper into an economic crisis.

Imran Khan had sought votes to bring the country out of economic depression and build a new Pakistan. He is fast losing his political capital in Pakistan, where military rules the roost. And, Pakistan Army thrives on warmongering. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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