"Taliban Khan" won elections in Pakistan: Consequences for Ukraine and West

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

The change of power in Pakistan is the object of attention of Ukraine, since Islamabad is a long-time buyer of domestic products of the defense-industrial complex. Since independence, Kyiv has become accustomed to work with representatives of the "Muslim League" or "People's Party of Pakistan", which until recently alternated in power in the country of South Asia
12:23, 1 August 2018

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At the past parliamentary elections in Pakistan, the center-right populist Tehreek-e-Insaf party (the Pakistani Movement for the Justice Party) of the former captain of the Pakistan cricket team Imran Khan received the most votes. Khan's political career has been developing since 1996, but only on the basis of these elections his party managed to gain the most seats in the parliament. Tehrik-e-Insaf Party will receive 116 out of 272 seats. It is too early to talk about the final victory of Imran Khan, since this number of seats is not enough to form a parliamentary majority (137 seats) and the former sportsman has to negotiate the formation of a coalition with his opponent, leader of the People's Party of Pakistan Bilaval Bhutto (43 seats). The chairman of the "Muslim League" party Shahbaz Sharif, who lost more than half of the seats in these elections, acknowledged defeat and expressed his readiness to withdraw to the opposition.

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Plans of Imran Khan are really napoleonic. He wants to lead Pakistan out of the crisis, modernize the country, economically liberalize and build a state with a developed social system, overcome bureaucracy, corruption, and reduce the influence of the military on the country's political life. The Pakistani millionaire combines a commitment to Muslim values with publicity and liberal views in his outlook and lifestyle. Imran Khan is a famous person among the establishment in the UK. He graduated in London. Sometimes speaking at the events of the British analytical center Chatham House. Since youth, earned a reputation as a lover of women and noisy parties. For now, one can only imagine where Imran Khan will lead his state: 193 million Pakistan with a nuclear arsenal, torn by economic instability, systematic terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists and territorial disputes with India.

Taliban Khan: a friend or enemy of America?

The West was apprehensive about the results of the Pakistani elections. US State Department spokesman Heather Neuert said that there were restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly during the campaign. The mission of EU observers concluded that this year's election campaign in Pakistan was worse than in 2013 (then the Muslim League won), because not all parties had equal opportunities to participate in the political process. The Commission on Human Rights of Pakistan is of the same opinion. Some American media compare Khan with US President Donald Trump, believing that expressive politicians have too much in common with the vision of domestic politics.

However, this does not mean that US-Pakistani relations will continue with bright prospects. Even before Tehreek-e-Insaf won the election, Trump claimed that the leadership of Pakistan had not brought the United States anything but lies and disappointment, and he did not want to see Pakistani migrants in his country. Pakistanis are annoyed that the US Republicans have concentrated on establishing relations with India, Islamabad's long-standing military and political opponent. The Tehreek-e-Insaf leader does not agree with the statements of the US president that Pakistan is doing insufficient to combat terrorism. Imran Khan is critical of the US military-political strategy in Afghanistan. He opposes the participation of Pakistan in "foreign wars", including the Afghan campaign of the United States.

Over the years, the Pakistani politician opposed the elimination of the Taliban leaders by military drones in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as they cause retaliation actions and undermine the peace process. Immediately after the elimination of Wali-ur-Rehman, the senior commander of the Tehreek-e-Taliban organization in 2013, Imran Khan said that he was a supporter of peace and his death provoked a retaliatory terrorist attack by the Taliban against the Pakistani military. He called NATO a group of Western liberals who crave blood. In his rhetoric, Imran Khan focused on criticizing America, the Western way of life and the global war on terrorism. He proposed to open a Taliban office in Pakistan, approved the legal system of radical Islamists. Imran Khan made a donation to the madrasah (a Muslim institution) of Sami ul-Haq, who is considered the "father" of the Taliban.

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For his tolerant attitude to the Taliban, the politician was nicknamed "Taliban Khan". Although Imran Khan was never an Islamic fundamentalist. He expects to make the Talibs friendly to him, so that they perceive him as a person close in spirit, and agree with them about a lasting peace and the cessation of terrorist activities in Pakistan. Imran Khan is trying to influence the state of things when Pakistan is not associated with the US war in Afghanistan. The attitude of the Taliban towards Imran Khan is mixed. As reported by the Al-Jazeera, in 2012 the Taliban considered Khan infidel for his liberal views. At the same time in 2014, the terrorists proposed his candidacy as a mediator in negotiations with the government. Then Imran Khan refused this. The rapprochement between Trump and Khan is possible if the US needs a mediator in negotiations with the Taliban. Recently, the Trump administration has decided to concentrate on defending large cities in Afghanistan and seek opportunities for direct negotiations with the Taliban. The head of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, stressed that the US is ready to discuss with the Taliban the role of international forces. The Taliban refuses to negotiate with the Afghan government and want to talk only with the US, demanding the withdrawal of US troops from the country as a condition for a peaceful settlement.

If the US cannot agree with the Taliban, then they will continue to rely on joint military operations with the Afghan National Army against Islamic extremists. However, even the Imran Khan does not exclude the power scenario in relations with the Taliban. In 2013, he promised to support a military operation against the Pakistani Taliban, if negotiations fail. Since then, five years have passed and now the politician gives the Taliban a second chance. In the event of a failure to persuade the Taliban to peace through diplomatic efforts, Trump and Imran Khan can certainly join forces against a common enemy. Otherwise, in Pakistani society dissatisfaction with the new leader, who is not able to protect citizens from the terrorist threat, will be growing, than the opposition-minded military will use it and organize a coup d'état. In Pakistan, the positions of regional clans that have power in the army and the economy and do not agree with the program of Imran Khan are strong enough.

Tehreek-e-Insaf: Surprise to Pakistan's neighbors

During the election campaign, Imran Khan promised to resolve existing problem issues in relations with neighboring states, including with India. Since 1947, there have been five wars between the countries in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, around the glacier of Siachen and in the territory of the modern state of Bangladesh. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is actually divided into Indian and Pakistani units. India keeps in Kashmir a military group of 300 thousand people. Pakistan sponsors the Kashmiri Mujahideen who want to secede from India. Militant Muslims seep through the line of demarcation and arrange terrorist attacks. Relations between the two countries are complicated by Islamic extremists who attack military bases in the border areas of India from the territory of Pakistan.

The other day Imran Khan stressed the importance of trade relations with India and expressed a desire to discuss the Kashmir problem. He urged the Indians to take a step toward Pakistan, after which the Pakistanis will take two steps to meet India. In 2017, India's and Pakistan's trade turnover amounted to $ 2.6 billion. Trade potential is not fully used. Without political contradictions, the annual volume of bilateral trade could reach $ 20-40 billion. Pakistan imports five times more products from India (mainly machine-building products). Although there are prerequisites for changes in the opposite direction. In recent years, demand for Pakistani cement has been growing in India. India is distrustful of Imran Khan, as well as of any Pakistani policy. In response to Imran Khan's proposal to start negotiations on the resolution of the armed conflict in Kashmir, the Indian Foreign Ministry expressed interest in a prosperous and progressive Pakistan that has good relations with its neighbors. Some Indians still perceive Imran Khan and his party as the "fifth column" of the Taliban in Pakistan.


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The Tehreek-e-Insaf party is far from being a gift for China, which traditionally sees Pakistan as an ally in the confrontation with India. At first glance, it may seem that the anti-Americanism of Imran Khan and the priority on strengthening ties with neighboring states are never more useful for the Middle Kingdom in conditions of cooling relations with the United States. Pakistan is interesting for China as a gateway to the Indian Ocean. There is a project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - a transportation route that will connect the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with the Pakistani port of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea. The amount of this project is 57 billion dollars. The project is aimed at the development of transport infrastructure and agriculture in the states of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. However, unlike the "Muslim League", the Tehreek-e-Insaf party is skeptical about the implementation of this project. The local government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Tehrik-e-Insaf party dominated, opposed the project. The party believes that CPEC is a manifestation of corruption and a waste of money that can be invested in education and health.

The Tehreek-e-Insaf party could specifically challenge the implementation of the CPEC project in order to make the population of the Baluchistan and Sindh provinces friendly. Under the implementation of the Chinese project agricultural land is allocated, and some local residents would have to move to other areas. Imran Khan is gaining a price in the eyes of the Chinese partners and expects dividends from them in exchange for the consent to implement the CPEC. He has already stated that he wants to send a delegation of experts to China to study China's experience in managing and solving the problem of poverty. He also said that he would attract foreign investment to implement the transport corridor project and create jobs for Pakistanis. Imran Khan made it clear to the Chinese leadership that the new Pakistani authorities do not want to invest in CPEC implementation and it is much easier for them to build a transport corridor at their own expense and invest in the development of the Pakistani regions.

Chances of Ukraine get along with Imran Khan

The Ukrainian authorities will have to establish relations with completely new people in power in Pakistan. After all, during the years of independence, we are accustomed to interact exclusively with the governments of the Muslim League and the People's Party of Pakistan. To maintain the continuity of relations with Pakistan, and, even better, to intensify military-technical cooperation, is an important task for Ukrainian diplomacy. Pakistan has long been buying Ukrainian weapons. In the 90s, a contract for the supply to Pakistan of 320 T-80UD tanks in the amount of $ 650 million produced by the Kharkov Plant was in force. In July 2017 Pakistani ambassador Atar Abbas expressed interest in the acquisition of more than 100 "Oplot" tanks. It was planned to modernize the armored vehicles of the Pakistani army at Ukrainian enterprises.

Certain prospects for establishing relations exist. Imran Khan has a rather reserved attitude towards Russia. Last year, during an interview with Express News he said that Russia is ruled by a dictatorial regime and therefore no one is fighting corruption. In 1999 Imran Khan wrote a letter to then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in which he condemned the passivity and indifference of the international organization to the problem of Chechnya, where the Russians destroyed the local population. He stressed that, despite the fact that the UN imposed sanctions against the Taliban, it did nothing to stop the massacre that Russia arranged in Chechnya. Then members of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party staged protests and some of them chanted "Death to Russia." Then Imran Khan positioned himself as a defender of Muslims against Russian tyranny. At the present stage, the object of arbitrariness and aggression of Russia are citizens of Ukraine, including Muslims - Crimean Tatars, whom Russian authorities and collaborators subject to repression in the annexed Crimea. Disagreement with Russia's aggressive policy is one of the unifying factors for establishing relations between Ukraine and the new authorities of Pakistan.

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However, there are also negative signals for Ukraine. Almost all time of its independence Pakistan was in the orbit of influence of the United States and China. Against the backdrop of flirting with India, this was very logical. However, Donald Trump challenged China and is trying to establish closer relations with India. Relations between Pakistan and the United States are gradually deteriorating. Islamabad does not like the significant improvement in US-Indian relations. Since the US turned off military aid to Pakistan, establishing further cooperation with India, the authorities are worried about the possible deterioration of Pakistani positions in South Asia. In addition, the US continues to attack Pakistan, accusing it of cooperating with terrorist organizations. In early December 2017, Islamabad condemned Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Naturally, in such a situation Pakistan will seek more and more active contacts with China and with the Russian Federation. Moscow needs to sell its defense industry products somewhere. India, previously a traditional market for Moscow, is gradually reorienting to US arms. In 2014, Moscow and Islamabad signed an agreement on military-technical cooperation, which includes a provision on the sale of combat helicopters MI-35. In addition, Moscow and Islamabad began negotiations on the sale of a Su-35 fighter, a long-range combat aircraft.

It is interesting how Imran Khan will maneuver in the uneasy square of India-China-Russia-USA, and whether Ukraine will be able not to lose benefits in its relations with Pakistan.

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