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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Why Imran Khan shouldn’t act like a populist?

According to Jan Achakzai, Imran Khan needs to be careful while rallying the public as extreme populism will lead to a diplomatic fallout and severe geopolitical costs for Pakistan.

As there seems to be still no diplomatic solution to the conflict between Hamas in Gaza and Israel, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched public relations moves to express solidarity with Palestinians asking for a state-level protest against Israel this week.

Since the ordinary population is enraged over the plight of Palestinians and is looking for emotional catharsis, this is why from right-wing to left-wing, political persuasions besides PM, are in a race to weaponize the issue.

Read more: Pakistan observing Palestine solidarity day on May 21: Is it any useful?

The Prime Minister in the backdrop does not want to be seen to be behind them though he may not genuinely believe in it if looked at cynically.

Yes, it is a populist move. But PM Imran Khan is better advised to be careful as to how far he wants to be populist and what could be the opportunity cost in terms of diplomatic fallout.

A recurring trend?

The Prime Minister did the same thing last time against France by raising a campaign of Islamophobia and he tried to rally the support of some Arab and non-Arab countries but failed.

Read more: PM demands Muslim states to take action on Islamophobia

However, the campaign stirred a strong reaction from the EU culminating in an anti-Pakistan resolution in the European Parliament and the threat of withdrawing GSP Plus status which provides a $6 billion worth market to Pakistani exports. Again, Army Chief Gen Bajwa attempted to salvage the PTI government when the EU Ambassador called on him.

Talking to Ambassador Androulla Kaminara, according to the ISPR, said: “Pakistan values its relations with the EU and earnestly looks forward to enhancing mutually beneficial multi-domain relations based on common interests.”

Read more: Pakistan rejects EU Parliament’s resolution?

Worse was relations with Saudi Arabia when Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi publicly humiliated the KSA on Indian-occupied Kashmir. The government could not manage the negative consequences, i.e. abrupt cancelation of the loan facility. Then the Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa intervened and managed to calm the soothing anger of the KSA.

What should Pakistan do?

Emotions and feelings are well and good but not having the capacity to turn them operationally into something tangible or mitigate the negative ramifications in international geopolitics, should inform policy decisions. Brash acts will damage Pakistan’s standing further internationally when it has weak economic, diplomatic and political heft.

Provoking the public may lead to violent backlash. Too much pandering to the rightwing suits politically but may have a strong geopolitical impact.

The government needs to weigh the fact that almost all the cabinets including the CIA head of the Biden admin are Jews so Pakistan needs to recalibrate.

Read more: Forget morality, recognizing Israel is against Pakistan’s national interest

Looking from here, India very cleverly de-hyphenated Isreal and Palestinian policies, supporting Palestinians ( as “the right Palestinian cause” in UNSC) vs keeping a balancing act with Israel, so is the case with Turkey and Egypt which are trying to broker a cease-fire with Hamas and Israel.

Equally, UAE was also smart to articulate Palestinian interests in front of Isreal and is pressuring PM Netanyahu to concede to bring to an end the current hostilities.

Read more: The UAE-Israel deal’s historicity is in the fine print

Understandably Pakistan does not need to do a balancing act with Israel as we have no formal diplomatic relations. But we should not be populist to the extent of provoking Christian-Jewish backlash incurring geopolitical cost to the country since populism can not be juxtaposed with sober foreign policy posturing.

Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Baluchistan, an ex-advisor to the Baluchistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.