Afghanistan—where empires go to die. Most importantly the saying goes true when top US senator Lindsey Graham says: “I was ‘blown away’ on meeting Imran Khan.” A big contrast from usually hackneyed US rhetoric that Islamabad didn’t do ‘a damn thing’ for the US. Graham vowed to urge President Trump to meet Imran Khan to boost Washington’s peace efforts, calling the Pakistani PM an “agent of change”. Strange! Isn’t it? Agent of change for what? In terms of holding the keys to Taliban? It’s why Americans are so much sycophantic toward Khan all of a sudden?
The change in tone was just before the flurry of diplomatic activities culminated into the US-Taliban accord on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Maybe this is a mixture of timing, the exhaustion of Washington’s patience with Taliban and creating space for other countries like China, Turkey and Russia in the backdrop of the perceived US retreat. For Afghanistan will be influenced by these powers as well. This new settlement has not only the ramifications for both Islamabad and Kabul. But this entire bloc of countries locks into new strategic crisscross because the center of gravity, globally and economically, shifting east. If the Sino-One Belt One Road is the wheel of development, the CPEC galloping across Pakistan is its lynchpin for only if Afghanistan turns out to be placid.
Being already embroiled into hopped-up fake-news-saga, the PTI government is in dire straits on interior front to cope with the combined opposition challenge. To introduce PMRA: senseless and dangerous, as Dawn editorial puts it, the government moves ahead to stifle media. It looks like Khan’s image, as media paints, is one of enfant terrible. The wave of discord encircles the whole territory as his reign perpetuates.
But what to say about external front where Khan is hitting sixer after sixer. Despite lethal propaganda at home, Khan has become juggernaut to crush all in his path to make the entire world revolving around him. Why it’s so? If you are going over a rickety old bridge that sways in the wind, you might question its structural integrity. Integrity implies doing the right thing in a reliable way for a person, holding it, has a moral compass that doesn’t waver. Mayhap the whole gulf and particularly Americans have understood that Khan has the courage to say no. He has the courage to face truth. The high road is always respected. Honesty and integrity are always rewarded.
As described earlier, sea changes are shaping the region. Not only the region but also the whole world. It’s not about Afghanistan, Pakistan or India. Dogged by Brexit, the future of the UK is ditherer. Stalemated into yellow vest, France is on verge of another revolution. Locked by governmental shutdown, the US is gnawed by fiscal collapse. Then as well the terrain of Middle East is sweepingly unruly when laden with the bleak prospect of new Arab Spring—currently starting from Sudan. In a nut-shell, the tumultuous chaos fringes the entire planet.
Hence falling on hard times, Grahams deciphers PM Imran Khan with a beacon of change. Arabs gloss him over as a silver lining. It’s not just Khan’s credibility. Other factors too like internal consolidation and military diplomacy are flagrant. But it might not be misconstrued that Pakistan’s diplomacy would not have been on its renaissance had Khan not been calling the shots since July 25, 2018.
Look at Khan’s googlies in sync with his twitter diplomacy. How he warded off Modi’s faint surgical strikes by his Kartarpur’s master-stroke. How he kicked off a foreign policy coup by contriving a special place in the hearts of Sikh pilgrims. How he made enemies of peace across the border to be caught into hornet’s nest by conveying his peaceful overtures. How he raised clamoring call, via his foreign minister at the UNO, to shun the human rights abuses in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
Gushing streams of Khan’s diplomatic acumen even deluge the gulf countries too. Billions in aid being poured in from Qataris, Saudis and Emiratis is an epitome of Khan’s economic diplomacy to hack off the balance of payment crisis. Ironically the previous PPP-PML-N governments made the UAE aloof as a consequence of which India eventually got space to penetrate into shore up Pakistan’s isolation. But now with the advent of Khan, promising is the rejuvenation of terms with brotherly states.
PM Imran Khan’s visits to Turkey and Malaysia hints at seismic shift of Muslim diplomacy toward inclusive solidarity. It’s been almost a century ago when Turkish Caliphate was disintegrated to mutate Turkey into the sick man of Europe in the wake of the First World War. Now while the balance of power is increasingly tilting toward East, the triplet of top big guns namely Erdogan, Mahathir and Khan, hence, perhaps strive for Muslim resurgence.
To sum all it up, Afghanistan qua the graveyard of empires precipitates the American fall briskly. It can only be delayed were the US and Taliban agreed on foreign troops’ drawdown as soon as possible. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the UAE are on verge of the new Arab Spring to which the dethronement of monarchies might be an ultimate upshot. To fend off regime change is what Pakistan’s robust military cushion might be employed as the sole security guarantee in the near future—see Raheel Sharif’s presence in the KSA in this very context. What to say about India who seeks refuge in the illusion of surgical strikes while leaving RSS extremist factions roam free to wreak havoc on minorities. The rising China and resurgent Russia cannot ignore Pakistan keeping in view of her crucial geostrategic position.
At the end, it’s worth to remember Ghiyas Ud Din Balban, the 9th Sultan of Delhi during 1266-86 A.D, whose key-note of foreign policy was not external expansion but internal consolidation. Exactly opposite to Balban, Khan believes in external expansion—in foreign policy arena—to play diplomacy with finesse for expediting internal consolidation. Indubitably economic diplomacy coupled with Khan’s integrity is its one facet to pay dividends through internal fiscal reforms. It’s my hunch that history will remember Khan not as a political savvy at home but as a foreign policy decision maker, as a shrewd diplomat who will not only determine the future of the country but also the region and beyond. It is how PM Imran Khan’s diplomacy sets off a thumping start.