Pakistan is going through a period of political turmoil both domestically and in its relations with neighbor and nuclear-armed rival India. Opposition leader Imran Khan has been leading an anti-corruption campaign against the government. He has now called off earlier plans for the lockdown of the capital Islamabad in the wake of a court ruling that paved the way for an investigation into allegations of corruption against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family. Press TV has spoken to Navid Ahmad, investigative journalist, as well as Liaquat Ali Khan, professor of law at Washburn University, to get their takes on Pakistan’s political crisis.
Ahmad believes that Imran Khan’s protest call was an achievement, adding that his insistence on the fact that Pakistani leaders should not be corrupt or have a conflict of interest is “ringing the bell.”
He also stated that Imran Khan’s threat to shut down Islamabad was basically meant to pressure the Supreme Court of Pakistan to listen to people’s grievances because Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been trying to drag his feet away on the question of investigations since the Panama Papers scandal.
Leaked confidential documents from the Panamanian Mossack Fonseca law firm, known as the Panama Papers, have revealed that Sharif’s children owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands that could be judged as money laundering and tax avoidance.
Ahmad, however, noted that the lockdown of the capital would have been a major crisis for the government as well as a blow to Imran’s own credibility.
Also commenting on simmering tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi, the analyst said when it comes to relations with India, Nawaz Sharif is “extremely soft” and not really working as a statesman.
He further noted that Nawaz Sharif’s handling of the Kashmir dispute vis-à-vis India has been anything but “satisfactory,” adding that he is neither doing well on the economic front nor is he dealing with Pakistan’s strategic and diplomatic issues correctly.
As far as public opinion is concerned, “Nawaz Sharif’s lack of activity, lack of proactive diplomacy and addressing the concerns according to Pakistani people, which are his voters’ aspirations, has damaged him,” he said.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Ahmad said that Pakistan was moving speedily towards “a notion of non-alignment.” There is no high-level exchange as it used to be with the United States and Islamabad is going to further distance itself from Washington in the foreseeable future, he predicted.
“However diplomacy will be acted in a way that Pakistan does not come under fire in terms of any sanctions. That is the whole goal that Pakistan and United States should stay neutral with each other instead of going antagonistic in any form or manner,” he added.
Pakistan, he noted, cannot stand very close to Russia and the recent overtures cannot be exaggerated beyond a certain level.
Meanwhile, the other panelist on Press TV’s program Liaquat Ali Khan opined that Imran Khan’s demand of holding Nawaz Sharif’s family accountable for the corruption charges they are facing is “legitimate,” but his method of protest is almost “undemocratic.”
“I think where the mistake is that Imran Khan [had plans for a] lockdown of Islamabad, causing lots of difficulty to ordinary people, closing down the major institutions in Islamabad … So I think he needs to be a little more democratic in his methodology. But his demands are perfectly legitimate and the government must clarify the name of the prime minister and his family,” he said.
Commenting on Kashmir dispute, the academic noted that this is a very “complex, difficult and old” issue.
He also stated that even though Pakistan has a “legitimate claim” that there should be a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley, it is unlikely that India would agree to have one because there is a likelihood that it would lose Kashmir.
According to the expert, Pakistan cannot really do anything other than internationalizing the conflict so that the United Nations and the world powers would put pressure on India to find a settlement.
Khan further stated there is a “fundamental shift” taking place in South Asia and the broader region. Pakistan and the United States, he said, are pulling away from each other and Islamabad is completely aligning itself with China and Russia.
He also argued that with a new alliance between China, Pakistan and Iran, the United States will have very little input in shaping the fundamental relations across the region.
“The United States knows that if it goes towards India, then China, Pakistan and Iran will make a new alliance which will be much more powerful and perhaps detrimental to the regional interests of the United States,” he said. “So I think there is a fundamental economic and geopolitical shift that cannot be stopped anymore and this will not be good for the interests of the United States.”