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New Pak PM Shehbaz Sharif’s obsession with Kashmir despite own nation in turmoil

Pakistan PMs’ obsession with Kashmir is not new. His predecessor Imran Khan kept badmouthing the Indian dispensation and often sought to internationalise the Kashmir issue but eventually himself got sidelined & snubbed by his own partymen.

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Shehbaz Sharif
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Days after taking over the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif wrote a letter to Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and sought ‘meaningful’ engagement between the two countries. Making his inaugural speech after taking over the reins, he raised the issue of abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and also castigated its own, the then Imran Khan government for not registering vociferous protest & taking the matter to international forum.

Though he extended an olive branch to India, in a letter to PM Modi and sought India’s role in addressing the regional issues, but also stated that durable solution can’t be reached unless the Kashmir issue is resolved.

“We want good ties with India but durable peace is not possible until the Kashmir dispute is resolved,” he had said.

Pakistan PMs’ obsession with Kashmir is not new. His predecessor Imran Khan kept badmouthing the Indian dispensation and often sought to internationalise the Kashmir issue but eventually himself got sidelined & snubbed by his own partymen. At last, he was seen singing paeans for India’s foreign policy and was also seen effusively praising the Indian Army. In last moments, he criticized Pakistan Army drawing comparison with Indian soldiers but to no avail. Similar thing goes for Shehbaz’s brother & former Pak PM Nawaz Sharif who raked up Kashmir at international forums and sought to mobilise global support in its favour but to avail.

Today, the whole nation is in turmoil and economic mess. Many provinces are facing a long power cuts, steep food inflation has sent prices of vegetables skyrocketing, still the Kashmir rant is something no Pakistan PM forgets.

Pakistan watchers believe that Shehbaz, being a proponent of good economic ties tried to play to the gallery by raking up Kashmir issue as this would have won him applause & admiration from domestic audiences. He may also have taken cue from brother Nawaz govt, which came under fierce attack from within the country for omitting Kashmir in the joint India-Pakistan PM statement in 2015.

Though, this time also, new Pakistan PM was berated and excoriated by fellow influential countrymen like former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi & former Pak envoy to India Abdul Basit. Both of them took objection to word ‘issue’ and asked Shehbaz to term it a ‘dispute’. In letter to PM Modi, Shehbaz had described Kashmir as an issue.

Shehbaz, being a votary of good ties with India, fell for the same propaganda like former Pak PMs but the real question is can he pull the country out of this mess? Pakistan is battling double digit inflation, its rupee has withered, nation has plunged into darkness due to severe power crisis and its economy in doldrums.

Challenges are immense before the new Pakistani dispensation but rather than putting own house in order, it likes to give sermons on Kashmir. Whether Pakistan will continue to deep dive into crisis or will it survive – much will depend on the course it takes but dropping its ‘Kashmir mania’ would indeed be a welcome & wise move.

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