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Naya Pakistan: Experts see 'ray of hope' amid talk about Imran taking different path

7/28/2018

New Delhi/Islamabad, In the wake of poll results in Pakistan and PTI chief Imran Khan making a strong pitch for 'reconciliation' with India, former diplomats and politicians say that military establishment in that country is always in the background and would drag its feet over any such peace initiative. "Imran Khan has been talking about a 'Naya (new) Pakistan', but there is no talk or indication that the hardliner and extremist groups will be fought," said Vivek Katju, a former diplomat and who also served as India's envoy in Afghanistan. A few others including those close to the ruling BJP say, the cricket icon-turned-politician will need a roadmap to deal with the "surge in Chinese loans". It implies like his predecessors, Imran Khan will have to maintain a good relation with Beijing and then 'balance out' its own hostile relations with India and the US irritation. The foreign reserves of Pakistan have plunged to just over $9 billion last week from $16.4 billion in May 2017. In fact, the foreign exchange reserves is depleting at the rate of $1.2 billion per month approximately in Pakistan. However, BJP leader Sunil Shastri said elections in Pakistan and the possibility of Imran Khan taking over as the next prime minister in that country has given a "ray of hope" for improving ties with India but the onus is on the cricket icon-turned-politician. "I will say, there is a ray of hope....but it is with a caveat, he has to deliver. The onus is on Imran Khan," Mr Shastri, whose father Late Lal Bahadur Shastri led India to a glorious victory against Pakistan in 1965 war, told UNI here. Even Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, a former UN diplomat is not quite optimistic. "So Imran Khan is a man Indians can talk to. But what should we expect from a Pakistan led by him? The problem is that he has two faces — a liberal, cosmopolitan and urbane one, which is seen in London and Mumbai — and an uncompromisingly hawkish Islamist one, an image he reserves for his Pakistani audiences. This is the man who, after all, has had Hafiz Sayeed address his early rallies", wrote Tharoor in an article for 'The Quint'. On their part, a section of Pakistani experts say the 'real crisis' is still a few months away, "which gives the new government time to formulate its response". "There are big problems waiting for the next government, though it is important to underline that none of them have yet graduated to become what we might call a ‘crisis’. That could happen in the months to come, but it is not here yet," writes Karachi-based economic journalist Khurram Husain in 'Dawn'. According to a report in another Pakistani paper 'The Express Tribune', Asad Umar, the man 'tipped to lead Pakistan’s finance ministry', has also spoken about the option of knocking on the doors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A BJP leader in Delhi on the condition of anonymity, however, said the elections in Pakistan and possibility of elevation of Imran Khan as Prime Minister is only "an internal matter" of that country. "People do talk about election being rigged at the behest of army....so the story has hardly changed. This was the story even two decades back," he said adding "We strongly feel that if they want peace, Pakistan needs to come clean on terror front. Without that no movement forward would be possible as the Pakistani army commanders are capable to put brakes on any kind of political approaches". A section in India's ruling regime also says that it would be interesting to see how Imran Khan-led dispensation actually deals with the United States. Imran Khan has lately said that "excessive US diplomatic, non-diplomatic, and intelligence personnel from Pakistan” should be removed. Such reactions came after the US administration decided to suspend security aid to Pakistan until the country took action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. Meanwhile, senior sports journalist Gopalakrishnan Unnikrishnan, who has met Imran Khan as a politician and also a cricket captain, pens lucidly: "As a player, Imran created a deep sense of loyalty in his players and this not without forgetting his running rivalry with Javed Miandad. On a cricket field and within the walls of a dressing room, Imran could afford to be brusque and dominant. But if he indeed muster the number and become the Prime Minister of Pakistan, he will be asked to follow a different road."

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