Legendary cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan was officially sworn in as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan on Saturday. It was a solemn and austere ceremony as Khan intended it to be. He had earlier decided not to invite the regional leaders to his swearing-in ceremony. In his first address to the nation, he kept his focus on the internal challenges of Pakistan. The new premier promised wide ranging reforms with a focus on safeguarding Pakistan’s resources and their redistribution from the rich to the disadvantaged. However, Khan’s challenges begin now and he will have to hit the ground running. There may not be much of a honeymoon period to look forward to.
New government will have to deal with gigantic political and security challenges which if left unaddressed mortally threaten the existence of the country. The country is already faced with an unsettling geo-strategic transformation in the region as US and China begin to confront each other at the global level and carve their respective spheres of influence. And the continuing turmoil in Afghanistan will continue to be a destabilizing factor. The scenario that looks set to unfold in the country is a scary one. Taliban, as it is, remains undefeated – albeit some elements of it may be currently in engagement with US. And there is hardly any indication that things will dramatically change in the next year. The war-torn country, as is widely apprehended, could plunge yet again into a bloody civil war which is likely to draw in the neighbours, including India and Pakistan. The new government in Islamabad has the onerous responsibility to manage this transformation. Of course, the new Pakistan government will also be expected to start a fresh engagement with New Delhi. However, this can only be substantively possible when India is also done with its own general election next year. We hope that the new government in Islamabad and its 2019 counterpart in Delhi will work to not only steer the region through this fraught transition but also take concrete steps to mend their lingering differences which alone will be the guarantee for a sustainably peaceful South Asia.
Meanwhile, with the NDA government in Delhi still in power for almost one more year, the two governments are capable of holding substantive discussions on the long running contentious issues which can be built upon by the successor government in the country. There is already a roadmap in Musharraf-Manmohan Singh engagement that they can draw upon. General Pervez Musharrafs rule had witnessed an extended process of constructive engagement with New Delhi which almost pulled off a Kashmir solution. But his sudden exit from the scene in 2008 unravelled the whole effort. The four point proposals mooted by Musharraf offer a jumping off point to begin the new engagement. Time for the neighbours to make a fresh bid at dialogue and make it sustainable and meaningful.
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