15 days ago

Hiroshima 2023 ... and power struggle in Pakistan

Police officers stand in a position to stop the supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, as he appeared before the Supreme Court in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 11, 2023 — Reuters file photo
Police officers stand in a position to stop the supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, as he appeared before the Supreme Court in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 11, 2023 — Reuters file photo

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Things strange have lately been happening around the world. It all makes you wonder what could be going wrong, at least in the realm of politics and diplomacy. With all the consequences of climate change before us --- sudden floods, unforeseen rains, forest fires, high temperatures, drought conditions and all --- one certainly doesn't need more of calamity.

But calamity is what stares us in the face. President Vladimir Putin is in little mood to call an end to the war he launched against Ukraine in February 2022. He had thought it would be a cakewalk for him. He and his generals must surely have convinced themselves that Ukraine would fall within days, if not hours. Well, Ukraine has lost territory, has had some of its villages and towns destroyed. But it is yet standing.

No one is quite sure that Moscow will be able to bring Kyiv to its knees. With an entire West ranged against Russia, things will be hard for Putin to handle. No, Russia will not be defeated. But can it win the war? And that is the question we must deal with, given that the western powers have now decided to arm President Volodymyr Zelensky with F-16 fighter jets and other ammunition to go on with his campaign of compelling the Russians to make their way back to Moscow. Zelensky will have his pilots trained to operate the F-16s, which is surely music to his ears.

But no one in the West appears to be considering the reality, which is that arming Ukraine and demonising Putin is not the solution. And yet that is what the leaders of the G7 group of nations did at their meeting a few days ago. It was irony on display when the G7 meeting took place in Hiroshima, where in August 1945 tens of thousands of innocent Japanese were done to death through an insensitive display of nuclear power by the United States, at the time led by President Harry Truman.

There has never been an American apology for the destruction caused in Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. No one in the councils of the world has ever referred to the dropping of the atomic bombs over Japan as a war crime.

And yet it was in Hiroshima, mute testimony to the horrors of war, that the G7 leaders met to invest Zelensky with the power to use newer weapons in his armoury. Hiroshima was ravaged in war; and strangely the steps that could only have the Russia-Ukraine conflict escalate were spelt out in Hiroshima.

What the G7 leaders could have done was send out peace feelers to Moscow, persuade Ukraine's President into adopting a diplomatic approach toward President Putin as a way of rolling back the crisis. Hiroshima remains witness to human folly, to the futility of armed conflict.

Since 1945, it has been a place to which people from around the world have travelled to remember and pay homage to the men, women and children killed in the atomic explosion. And therefore from Hiroshima should have come, from the G7, a message of peace, of a search for peace between Moscow and Kyiv. That did not happen. No sign of statesmanship was displayed by any participant at the summit.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan . . .

Hiroshima apart, it is Pakistan which today draws the world's attention. Politics in the troubled country has clearly dwindled to a state where it is now a war former prime minister Imran Khan and army chief of staff Asim Munir are waging against each other. It is an embattled Imran Khan whose fortunes are on a slide, given that the military has gone after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf with fury.

Senior PTI leaders are in prison and thousands of PTI activists, carted off to jail in light of the violence of 9 May, now face trial under, of all things, the Army Act. Khan remains holed up at his home, with little guarantee that he will not be rearrested at some point.

Mistakes have been and are being made by everyone involved in Pakistan's current state of affairs. Imran Khan has, since his removal from office last year, given the patent impression that he has not taken that loss of power lightly.

He first blamed the United States for engineering his removal and yet now, as revealed through a telephone conversation he had with a US Congresswoman, he solicits American support in his battle against the army. With Washington's support he thinks, improbably, it will be possible for him to return to power.

That will of course depend on whether the Americans at all trust him. He has made enemies of them. At home, Pakistanis by and large --- and among them are the political classes and business circles --- have been falling head over heels in singing the glory of the Pakistan army. The message is embarrassing: that anything against the army is an act undermining the state of Pakistan.

Forgotten is the fact that Imran Khan's movement has been directed at a restoration of political authority through fresh general elections. There is little question that the PTI, should fair elections take place, will win hands down. The disparate thirteen-party coalition now in power, thanks to the army, has too little public support to beat the PTI.

But will the PTI be on the scene when elections are finally held, if they are held at all? General Asim Munir has not forgotten how he was removed from the position of chief of the army's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) by Imran Khan when he let Khan know that the then Prime Minister's family needed to be investigated for corruption.

It is the same man who now heads the army and who now has a clear advantage over Khan. Droves of PTI men, senior leaders as well as influential members, have in recent days severed their links with the party on the feeble explanation that they cannot be with a party which undermines the army and therefore undermines Pakistan.

Observe that in all this queer outpouring of support for the army, hardly anyone has underscored the need for democracy to take hold in the country. Everyone who has left the party has claimed that it was a decision made of his own free will.

That simply is not true. All these men abandoning what they think is a sinking ship have not had the courage to defy the army. That is a shame. Politicians who in South Asia or elsewhere have kowtowed before soldiers have historically lost the respect of citizens for good.

It's a strange world. Take a look at Sudan, where two generals of downright mean ambition have been reducing the country to rubble in their ignoble pursuit of power.

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