Sultan M Hali
VENI, vidi, vici (“I came; I saw; I conquered”) is a Latin phrase used to refer to a swift, conclusive victory. After Imran Khan’s triumphant return from his passionate and extempore address to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 27 September 2019, one would have expected the Pakistani Prime Minister to have uttered this famous phrase but instead he thanked the Almighty for the opportunity to dwell upon problems facing the world and the region rationally. He is fully cognizant of the fact that this was no victory but a mere declaration that he is willing to go the whole nine yards to fulfil his dream of resolving the Kashmir conundrum, make Pakistan achieve its full potential, rid the nation of corruption and clear the misconceptions regarding Islam.
The New York yatra was demanding, because during the course of his week-long stay, he had to convince various world leaders of the severity of the crisis in India-occupied Kashmir (IoK), the sad plight of its residents, who have been in a state of lockdown for two months now and seek their support in bearing down upon India for undoing its 5th August 2019 unilateral action of abrogating Articles 370, 35-A of its Constitution and annexing IoK and Ladakh into the Indian Union against the will of the Kashmiri people. Having 70 engagements including meeting with world leaders, addressing think tanks and participating in discussions besides bearing scathing attacks against his persona and the country he now leads, from his Indian counterpart, media and opponents back home, would have taken the toll of a lesser person. Imran is now close to be a Septuagenarian, but his strict regimen, sporting background and the conviction of his belief gave him strength. “Howdy, Modi: shared Dreams, Bright Futures” event at the sprawling NRG Football Stadium in Houston; comprising a fifty-thousand-crowd depicted Modi and US President Donald Trump declaring strengthened ties between India-US, addressing each other as “loyal friends”. The redeeming factor was the presence of an even bigger crowd outside the stadium, heckling Modi even more vigorously. The stark difference was that the protesters outside the mammoth Modi-Trump rally, comprised Kashmiris, Sikhs, representatives of other Indian minorities, equally oppressed by the Modi regime, Pakistanis and human rights activists from USA and Europe. While Modi’s speech at UNGA was lacklustre and based on defending his illegal actions in the IoK and promising a bright future for Kashmiris, his Pakistani counterpart’s delivery was composed, calm, full of logic and hard hitting. Delivered in English so that the essence and spirit of the content would not be lost in translation, Imran Khan made a huge impact.
No Muslim leader before him has ever explained the sensitivities of the faithful in reacting to derogatory cartoons or writeup against the Holy Prophet (PBUH), nor has anyone dared to expose the dark agenda of Hindutva and its militant arm the RSS in a more eloquent manner. Imran Khan dared to draw parallels with the sensitivities of the Jews to Holocaust and even challenged world leaders who give weightage to materialism in condoning Modi rather than give credence to the gross human rights violations in the IoK. Apart from China, Malaysia and Turkey, no other world leader mentioned Kashmir, but numerous international human rights organizations’ conscience has finally been pricked. They are not only vocally expressing their concerns but intending to send fact-finding missions to the IoK. Modi has been chastised at home and abroad for putting his political weight behind Trump in the forthcoming US presidential election and not being able to counter Imran Khan effectively.
Imran Khan was hailed as a visionary world leader by international leadership and media but back home, there is a plethora of domestic issues waiting to be addressed. One silver lining in the black clouds hovering is the return of international cricket to Pakistan. Sri Lankan team is currently playing limited overs cricket matches in Pakistan. Ten years back a heinous terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team at Lahore had shut the doors of international cricket on Pakistan causing great distress to Pakistan’s cricketing ventures. Even now, reportedly, India tried to blackmail many senior Sri Lankan players threatening them exclusion from the high revenue Indian Premier League if they visited Pakistan. Nevertheless, the successful fixtures speak volumes for the establishment of peace in the country. Emboldened by the high-level security provided, the Dutch Hockey team is also keen to visit Pakistan.
While UNGA was in progress, Azad Kashmir was rocked by a 5.8 earthquake, causing 30 deaths and about three hundred injuries. Directly on his return, the PM rushed to the affected area to assess damage and express solidarity with the affected. Pakistani political opposition, most of which faces high level corruption charges, incarceration and possible conviction, was unimpressed by the Prime Minister’s bold and courageous UNGA address. They remain oblivious to the plight of the residents of the IoK and are least concerned about the earthquake victims of Azad Kashmir. The bold and logical presentation by the PM in defence of Islam has fallen on deaf ears. The main concern of the Opposition is to de-seat Imran Khan by hook or by crook so that the charges against their accused/convicted leadership are dropped. Hardly the time to declare “Veni, vidi, vici”.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.
Sultan M Hali