Pakistan: Developing Narrative
Tilak Devasher, Consultant, VIF

Since the 05 August 2019 revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), several strands have emerged in the developing Pakistani narrative that Prime Minister Imran Khan is spearheading. In this, the entire government machinery and especially ministers like Fawad Chaudhury(S&T) and Shireen Mazari (Human Rights), as also diplomatsand former army officers are supporting him. These strands need to be noted to understand the unfolding Pakistani game plan.

The first strand is to raise the threat of an Indian ‘false flag operation’ and its repercussions.Thus, Imran Khan tweeted on 23 August,“I want to warn the international community that the Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention from its massive human rights violations & the unleashing of a reign of terror in IOJK”, (Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir).In his address on 26 August he again asserted that Pakistan had detected Indian attempts at launching false flags operations. Foreign Minister Qureshi told a Press Conference on 08 August, “I want to bring the world’s attention to one thing, that India can do a new false flag operation. A drama like Pulwama-2 can be played out.” In a press conference on 24 August he mentioned that on 01, 06, 13 and 24 Augusthe had drawn the attention of the UNSecurity Council to the possibility of a false flag operation.

The second strand is to hype-up tensions with India and raise the nuclear threat. In his 26 August address Imran Khan warned that any conflict with India would get escalated to the nuclear level that would imperil the whole world. It was thus the responsibility of the world to act now.In an interview he said,“And then you are looking at two nuclear-armed countries eyeball to eyeball, and anything can happen”; and, “My worry is that this can escalate and for two nuclear-armed countries, it should be alarming for the world what we are facing now”. He said in Muzaffarabad on 14 August, ‘we will go till the end.’ Shireen Mazari tweeted on 20 August, “India inching towards direct confrontation with Pak – from upping the ante along the Line of Control (LC) and the Working Boundary to now releasing water into Sutlej without warning causing flooding in Pakistan. Clearly India on a conflict escalation trajectory”. Azam Effendi, a retired Brigadier was quoted in an Urdu paper on 19 August warning that approximately 2.50 lakh Afghan Mujahideen were ready to help them (Kashmiris) in handling India but were waiting for a green signal from Government of Pakistan. Ali Muhammad Khan, a Federal Minister, while addressing the press on 22 August stated that Pakistan will win Gazwa-e-Hind and unfurl the Pakistani flag not only in Srinagar, but also in New Delhi and Red Fort. Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid told Parliament on 06 August, “War against India will now be taken to Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.” Subsequently, he apprehended a possibility of a war between India and Pakistan in October and November. In a press release on 06 August Director General of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) announced, “Pakistan Army (is) prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfill our obligations.’

The third strand is to raise the issue of human rights violations in J&K. Thus, Imran Khantweeted on 22 August, “Today, on the 1st International Day for Victims of Violence based on Religion or Belief, we call attention to the plight of millions of Kashmiris living under brutal Indian Occupation, abuse & violence, deprived of all fundamental rights & freedoms”. In an interview he claimed, “The most important thing is that eight million people’s lives are at risk. We are all worried that there is ethnic cleansing and genocide about to happen”.Again he tweeted, “Will world silently witness another Srebrenica-type massacre & ethnic cleansing of Muslims in IOK? I want to warn international community if it allows this to happen, it will have severe repercussions and reaction in the Muslim world setting off radicalization and cycle of violence”. On 08 August he tweeted, “The whole world is waiting to see what happens to oppressed Kashmiris in OIK when curfew is lifted.”

The fourth strand is to project that India is fascist, reminiscent of Nazi Germany. In his 26 August 2019 speech Imran Khan said that according to the Rashtriya Sewak Sangh (RSS) ideology India was only a Hindu state, others were second-class citizens. He tweeted on 18 August, “India has been captured, as Germany had been captured by Nazis, by a fascist, racist Hindu Supremacist ideology & leadership”. On 14 August he said in Muzaffarabad, ‘We are confronted with a very dangerous ideology. RSS is inspired by the ideology of Hitler’s Nazi Party. They believe in racial superiority of the Hindu community.” Fawad Hussain tweeted on23 August, “Under #Modi world is witnessing #HinduTalibanization of India, cruelty, fascism, murders, rapes, lynching this is new Indian under RSS+BJP”. ShireenMazari tweeted on20 August, “From Hitler & Mussolini to the RSS-BJP Founding Fathers to Rogue Modi Govt – all the same!”

The fifth is to claim a threat to Muslims in India. Imran Khan thus tweeted on 18 August,“… the threat also extends to …the minorities in India & in fact the very fabric of Nehru & Gandhi's India. “Already 4m Indian Muslims face detention camps & cancellation of citizenship. World must take note as this genie is out of the bottle & the doctrine of hate & genocide, with RSS goons onthe rampage, will spread unless the international community acts now to stop it.”He said in Muzaffarabadon 14 August, “They (Modi government) should remember that there are 18 to 19 crore Muslims in India and there will be reaction of what they are doing. Marginalization always leads to radicalization. The genie of RSS will not go back into the bottle. It will now attack the Sikhs, Dalits, Christians and of course the Muslims.”

These various strands in the developing Pakistani narrative clearly reveal that Pakistan has been flummoxed by the developments in J&K and is looking for a coherent narrative and direction. Right now they are lashing out in every direction from allegations of false flag operations to creating hype about escalation in tensions; from violations of human rights to the condition of Muslims in India. What Imran Khan does not realize is that India has acknowledged that restrictions have been placed in Kashmir in order to prevent violence and these restrictions are being gradually eased. The tears being shed for the Kashmiris would have had more credibility if Pakistan were not resorting to horrendous human rights violations of the Baloch and of the Pashtuns. Pakistan also appears to be seeking anticipatory bail and trying to pre-empt any blame and that will come its way in case of terror strikes by its jihadis.

The reality is that Pakistan has failed to garner international support to condemn India and hence the resort to desperate rhetoric. It is also left with very few options. After three weeks, all that Imran Khan has been able to come up with is to ask the public to stand for half-hour to demonstrate unity with the people of Kashmir. This will not impact either India or the international community. PM Modi being given awards by both Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as also his meeting with President Trump where the bilateral nature of the Kashmir issue was underlined are clear examples of this. As the reality of what has happened in J&K sinks in, the rhetoric from Pakistan is only going to get shriller and even more outlandish.

(Tilak Devasher is the author of three books on Pakistan. He is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India and currently Member, National Security Advisory Board and Consultant, Vivekananda International Foundation)

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