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I believe geography will soon change in Pakistan and Balochistan: Arif Aajakia

Human rights activist Arif Aajakia

Pakistan has the world in bewilderment – never-ending wars, a growing poor-rich divide, politicians thriving in foreign lands, army generals running businesses in Western countries and its people on the verge of a civil war.

Pakistan appears to be on a self-destruction path with continuous fighting in Balochistan, massive bombings in mosques that kill hundreds of faithful, the Afghan border aflame with hostilities and a toothless interim government that faces ignominy internally and externally.

In his recent five-day visit to New York for the UN General Assembly meeting, interim Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar did not meet a single political leader at the UNGA, reported Pakistani newspaper Dawn, drawing attention to the miserable situation that the country finds itself in.

With chaos gripping Pakistan as opposed to the rise of its eastern neighbour India globally and in lending a helping hand in its South Asian neighbourhood, India Narrative catches human rights activist and former mayor of Karachi, Arif Aajakia, to discuss India, Pakistan and global politics on the banks of the Jubilee river in Slough – near London, on a cold rainy day. Aajakia says that the break-up of Pakistan is imminent as all its powerful people, who he describes as “the Pakistani oligarchy” – the politicians, bureaucracy, judiciary, army and the media, are leading the country headlong towards its destruction.

Karachi-born human rights activist Arif Aajakia (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

Excerpts from the interview:

Pakistani Army is Anti-peace
The Pakistani oligarchy, which I mention above, all have designs to create a market of terror in India. I think that on two occasions the peace talks between India and Pakistan have been scuttled. One was the [Atal Behari] Vajpayee and [Nawaz Sharif] initiative and later it was the Narendra Modi and Nawaz initiative. These talks were not to the liking of the army which feels belittled when politicians take initiative.

Later, the army took out Imran Khan from its pocket and conspired to make him win the elections. The army had thought that with his international image, Imran would be able to bring international funding and improve the image of the country. But none of this worked as Imran took on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and made wrong financial decisions. He also took on the army, which nobody does in Pakistan.

The army wants the interim government to continue. General Asim Munir is running the interior ministry, the finance ministry as well as the foreign policy. The international community does not look at the interim Prime Minister as a representative of the people. At the UN General Assembly, he was looked at as a non-credible and unelected leader.

The Politics Behind Elections
Unfortunately for the army, the US is keen that Pakistan holds ‘free and fair’ elections. Also, the IMF will not give loans to an interim government. Therefore, the army knows that it will have to hold elections sooner or later. Whenever elections are held, the army will try to ensure a hung parliament so that it can continue its hold on power.

The thing with elections in Pakistan is that if 500 people go to vote, the official turnout is touted to be 5,000.

I also feel that despite all the efforts to bring Nawaz Sharif back to Pakistan, the army remains uncomfortable with him. Therefore, I will not be surprised if the former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto is made the Prime Minister. He has been making highly acerbic anti-India statements which are to the liking of the army.

Break-up of Pakistan Imminent
The internal situation in the country is bleak because of deep ethnic divisions. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has turned anti-Pakistan because of the proximity of the Pashtuns to Afghanistan. Also, they support Imran Khan in a big way and his harassment by the army has completely alienated them. Remember that even Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan chose to be buried in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and not in Pakistan.

During the recent clashes in Chitral, the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) made a post on the Pakistani side of the border. In another area of Chitral, the TTP fighters took over an army camp because the Pakistani soldiers fled from there. After a couple of days the army took it back from the TTP.

If ever, the various conflicts in Pakistan turn into a war, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will break itself free. Similarly, the Baloch people will also get the opportunity to make themselves independent. I think Afghanistan will support the Baloch. Maybe even Oman and Emirates will support Balochistan if it becomes free.

I also notice the US is beginning to look at Asia with interest again. It seems to be developing an interest in Balochistan as the province shares its borders with both Afghanistan and Iran. I believe that geography will change soon in the region.

State of Pakistani Society
A feeling is developing among the Pakistani diaspora that the country may disintegrate soon. It may happen in one year or it may take 10 years.

Just took at where the society is going – blasphemy laws only becoming stronger, the Shia-Sunni divide is increasing, atrocities on minorities have reached a peak, electricity bills are bigger than people’s earnings. I think a civil war may not be far off considering that the average Pakistani holds a lot of weapons.

India has Risen in Global Politics
Till ten years back India was not interested in global politics. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, he had to deal with a diplomacy that had a certain mindset. In the last five years, India has moved from being an actor in global affairs to being an active participant. I say this because of its association with I2U2 (India-Israel-US-UAE), the Quad grouping, a productive G20 summit and adopting a middle path in spite of the pressures from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

I think in days to come, India will play a bigger role in world politics. It is still a believer in ahimsa while the West believes in wars and keeps waging these.

The country has touched down on the moon and sent a mission to the sun. India could have risen much earlier in global rankings if Pakistan had not dragged India down using Kashmir as a tool.

Currently, Modi has developed good relations with the Muslim world which nobody had thought was possible under a BJP government.

I think India will have a stake in rare earths in Africa and Latin America because it is recognised as a country with positive dealings and honest, hardworking people. The Afghans understand that India was the only country to have actually supported them. Now even Pakistani YouTubers and intelligentsia are changing their views about India.

I also think that India is in global focus because of Modi, though he has been portrayed negatively by the Western media. However, India is no longer being ignored in global politics.