Imran’s unforgivable indiscretion


China is a friend of Pakistan and it should be respected as such


Criticising the sitting governments, opposing their policies on issues of national interest and trying to achieve political objectives by opposition parties and their leaders, is an internationally recognised democratic right provided the opposing views are propagated for constructive purposes, divorced from personal vendetta. But when the opprobrium descends into the realm of personal enmity laced with unsubstantiated allegations, it starts stinking, more so when the flak pertains to relations with another country, especially a time-tested friend like China. Unfortunately that is what the people of Pakistan have been treated with during the last more than three months by Imran Khan.

He has unleashed an unending barrage of unsubstantiated allegations of corruption and polls rigging against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, using the crudest street language and invectives unbecoming of a leader of his stature. Perched on his container and during his public rallies, he has been hurling churlish threats at the government functionaries, indulging in character assassination of the judges, denigrating state institutions and threatening to bring down the democratic set up through violent methods, with impunity. All this might be forgotten with the passage of time but the indiscretion that he committed in regards to the nature of economic cooperation between China and Pakistan during his address to the public rally in Islamabad on 30th November, is simply unforgivable.

He told his audience that the Sharifs had signed agreements with China to get kickbacks and commission and that he in his meeting with the Chinese Ambassador had told him that the involvement of Sharif family’s personal interests in Chinese business ventures in Pakistan was not acceptable. First of all, divulging the details of his discussions with the Chinese Ambassador at a public rally is the most unacceptable indiscretion that vitiates the diplomatic norms and protocols. Secondly and the most serious proposition that one can infer from what Imran has said is that he actually accused the government of China of underhand deals with the Pakistani leaders, an unprecedented offensive convulsion ever made by a Pakistani political leader against China.

This is not for the first time that he has indulged in this kind of bizarre behaviour in regards to Pakistan’s relations with China. In September, when the visit of Chinese President to Pakistan was cancelled due to the law and order situation created by dharnas and the government, media and intelligentsia blamed him for the diplomatic embarrassment caused to Pakistan, he emphatically declared that the visit was not scheduled to take place as claimed by the government. His claim was immediately rejected by the Embassy of China in Pakistan as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Yet another and the most preposterous suggestion that he made was that China was not making any investment in Pakistan and the US$ 42 billion were actually being given to Pakistan as a loan. The signing of the agreements between Pakistan and China during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to China in regards to power projects and projects under the Pak-China Economic Corridor have strongly refuted the claims made by Imran.

It really reflects poorly on Imran and his ability to comprehend the sensitivities involved in relations between the two states. This kind of erratic behaviour by a political leader aspiring to rule the roost is simply unacceptable. It is also astonishing and uneschewable that even Shah Mahmood Qureshi who once was the top diplomat of the country and presently the right hand man of Imran, failed to render appropriate advice to his leader and check his loose cannon-like fulminations. Perhaps a more plausible and credible explanation for Imran’s behaviour could be the widely believed notion that he does not believe in consulting the people around him and has an impulsive propensity to shoot allegations against others without verifying their veracity, which has repeatedly resulted in embarrassing situations for the party and frequent retreats from the positions taken by Imran, like the announcement for shutting down cities and entire Pakistan made by him as part of Plan C against the government — which by all means meant a complete shutter down and wheel jam strike which was later changed by Shah Mehmood Qureshi who claimed that Imran only meant blocking the arterial roads and not a complete shutter down.

Imran through his behaviour has amply proved that he still needs a lot of grooming to become a political leader of some substance and a deserving aspirant for the most coveted post of the Prime Minister in addition to learning the finer points of diplomacy. Allowing the internal political feuds or deliberately trying to cast their shadow on relations with a friendly country like China cannot be condoned or defended through any explanation.

China over the years has extended liberal economic and military assistance to Pakistan. It has played a significant role in the economic progress of Pakistan. The construction of KKH Highway, Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila and Chashma Nuclear Plants (III and IV) are the monuments of the ever-spiking bilateral ties. In the backdrop of US-India deal for transfer of civilian nuclear technology which Pakistan regarded as discriminatory act against it, China exhibited the strength of relations between the two countries by agreeing to help Pakistan in this area despite reservations of NSG and USA. No political leader of Pakistan and international watchdog agencies has ever raised their fingers at the agreements in regards to economic cooperation between the two countries.

The new economic and strategic partnership forged with China represents a pragmatic and visionary approach that would put the two countries on a road to eternal friendship and cooperation dictated by unalterable geographical realities and economic and strategic compulsions. It also marks a departure from Pakistan’s perennial propensity to look up to the West for its security and economic needs, and rightly so. Pakistan belongs to South Asian region and its security and economic needs are inextricably linked to this region.

The new narrative evolved by the present government in regards to Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and building strong linkages with the countries of the region, especially China, also fits well in the schemes of things at the global and regional level where China is poised to play a major role in determining the rules of the game on the chessboard of the world politics. Imran should understand and comprehend the emerging realities in our region and beyond, the significance of stronger ties between China and Pakistan and try to be more discreet and circumspect while expressing his views on the new economic cooperation between the two countries.


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