Pakistan is due to hold national elections this year and the new government will be charged with the onerous task of pulling the country out of its current tricky geo-political situation. The country is under an intense pressure from the United States and many other western powers to clamp down on the extremist outfits in the country and the alleged safe havens for Afghan Taliban within the country. Pakistan has already confirmed being placed on a grey-list by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) when the body meets in June. America ensured that the country was grey-listed despite the initial opposition from China and Saudi Arabia who later came around to the designation. Of late, the US has used every lever of power to force Pakistans compliance to its demand that the latter aid the defeat of Taliban in Afghanistan or bring it around to the negotiating table.
Similarly, Pakistan-India relations have plunged to their lowest low in the past four years. A few bids at resumption of dialogue have fallen through following a terror attack in India by the alleged Pakistan-based groups. New Delhi also called off engagement once after Pakistan ambassador met the Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah. Over the past year, the growing animosity between the neighbours has led to a progressive escalation of tension along the Line of Control and the International Border. Soldiers and the civilians have died on both sides. There is every chance that the growing frequency of skirmishes along the border could lead to a bigger conflict between the two countries.
Third, is the relations with China, Pakistans all-weather friend. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor have inextricably linked the two countries. Pakistan has also grown closer to Russia, Indias traditional friend. The regional geo-politics is thus undergoing a profound transformation which will change the way the countries will relate to one another.
The new Pakistani government will have to deal with all these fraught challenges. Much like 2013, it is difficult to say a particular party is favourite to win the polls. This time again there are three strong contenders for power in the country with the legendary cricketer Imran Khans Pakistan Tehreek Insaf emerging as a force to reckon with. The former cricketer has added a dash of interest to the Pakistans electoral scene which has traditionally been split Pakistan Muslim League and Pakistan Peoples Party. However, as of now, polls do not give Khan any decisive edge and instead put the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ahead. For us in Kashmir, the election is of profound importance. The new Pakistan government will not only have to deal with the war in Afghanistan but also with its possible spillover into Pakistan itself. At the same time, new government in Islamabad will have to carry forward the process of mending relations with India. And this is where the situation in Kashmir will assume importance. As of now, the situation in the state is very fragile. And if New Delhi and Islamabad leave things as they are, situation in Kashmir is likely to eteriorate further. It is therefore necessary that once a new Pakistan government is formed, the stalled dialogue between the two countries resumes fast. The fast changing geo-politics of the region not only requires India and Pakistan to meaningfully engage but also take concrete steps to address their long running issues.
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