Lurking fears

Lurking fears

Shahzad Chaudhry May 17, 2024
The writer is a political, security and defence analyst. He tweets @shazchy09 and can be contacted at


When Narendra Modi was up for another election in 2019 for his second term, he preceded that with an aerial strike against a target across the line of control. He framed that as a response to what had happened earlier in Pulwama, in occupied Kashmir, which he conveniently blamed on Pakistan — many in India including the then BJP appointed Governor in Kashmir have called it a staged false-flag operation for Modi to give reason to use the blatant aggression against Pakistan and establish his machoistic ‘bravado’. That seemingly played well with his voters even when the Pakistani Air Force responded in kind the very next day and shot an Indian Air Force plane capturing its pilot. When the pilot was returned as a goodwill gesture after a couple of days of questioning, he manipulated that as a victory for India under Modi which had coerced Pakistan to give the prisoner up. He won his election and was anointed the Prime Minister for a second term.

During his second tenure, Modi annexed Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of the Constitution which recognised Kashmir’s special status till the issue was resolved to the satisfaction of the two claimants, Pakistan and India, and broke it up in three to turn it into a Union territory directly controlled by the Centre in Delhi. Kashmiris have now been denied their right to choose their representatives like the rest of India for the last ten years with little possibility that elections to the state Assembly may be held any time soon. This is an outright denial of fundamental freedom and a violation of basic democratic principles. Modi also went on to fulfil his promise to turn the Babri mosque into a Hindu temple in Ayodhia and abrogated the citizenship of millions of Indian Muslims through legislative innovation of the Citizens Amendment Act, reviled by most liberals in India.

Before the BJP won the 2014 elections the ceasefire on the LoC, unilaterally held by both sides as a mutually goodwill gesture, was deliberately broken by India in 2013 in the lead-up to the elections. It was popularly believed that right-wing leaning officers in the Indian army launched a cross-LoC offensive to reinforce BJP’s credentials as a party which would stand up to Pakistan. Modi used Pakistan as a bogey, kept up his rhetoric in unison with booming gunfire on the LoC and won his elections. Modi calls these and the significant economic progress domestically as appetisers of his first two terms as he enthuses Indians to wait for the main course after his likely win in the ongoing elections. Clearly, he has done a lot more in continuation of Manmohan Singh’s achievements in paving the way for a modern India and a more prosperous economy. Modi has continued to build on it and introduced India to the rest of the world with a pitch which claims to have freed itself off its pedestrian mold. In so doing he promises more to come. The region and especially the neighbours remain on tenterhooks. Pakistan may be well advised to keep an eye on Modi’s menu options.

For it though things must first settle down domestically in Pakistan. The political instability has manifested itself in different ways. The infusion that economy desperately needs in investment and from bilateral and multilateral donors and IFIs continues to await settling of ruffles in the political arena. Without the economy showing any signs of improvement social unrest looms heightening political strife. In a way Pakistan is caught in this insidious catch-22 loop of frenzy feeding from one sector to the other and vice versa. This spiral down of the sociopolitical and socioeconomic mess must first halt to find space for reversing the trends. How may this be achieved is anyone’s guess.

With all sides standing off against each other there is hardly any slack to cut. What has been happening in Azad Kashmir is a manifestation of these trends and though currently geographically restricted has the making of a dangerous precedent on a wider scale in the country were it to be mimicked in major population centres. State’s response is knee-jerk, ill-thought and band-aid, not addressing the root cause of such eruption in the sentiment. Merely calling it foreign inspired will not do the trick. It needs deeper remedy of the underlying causes which are falsely characterised as party or party-leadership specific from a certain standpoint. The failure is more broad-based and multi-sectoral.

Governance in most of Pakistan has been abysmal. For too long the country and its governments have been consumed by political uncertainty. This is when governance of any kind has remained neglected and unattended. Cartels have benefited the most while the common man at the bottom of the spectrum has been crushed under mounting poverty. Only if law, rules and fidelity in government functions can be found can this waste and perpetual leak be stemmed. Then alone the meager resources can be used to their most optimal and then alone a sustainable relief or succor for the common man can be realised.

Till we begin to function as a normal country without a heightened sense of fear and uncertainty will the common man be assured of his safer tomorrow. But if the state continues to remain as apprehensive and speculative as it is, it can inspire little confidence in its people. This will need to change in a good way — not by inducing fear and highhandedness but by being sympathetic to its people at large and giving politics its due space to function. For the moment the State seems to impose its overwhelming presence and is seen as a party to the fracas. This is counterintuitive to its larger cause and purpose which is to keep tabs on what the likes of Modi may be envisaging as their future course.

Narendra Modi may not yet be a direct player in internal matters of Pakistan, but it makes it rife for him to begin considering it in his main course menu. That should be enough of a wake-up call. India probably has a role in how matters are worsening on the western borders with Afghanistan which imposes its own dynamics in the security calculus but to augment it with something on the eastern border will only multiply our difficulties in an already precarious and unstable domestic environment. It is time to think anew of options to settle down the uncertainty that has beleaguered the nation now for almost three years. Our political class has mostly been inept; to complicate it further with inherent uncertainty will only make it impossible to resolve our dilemma. If we fail at it, it shall unfortunately be of our own making. We may soon be out of time to make amends.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2024.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.



Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ