South Asia and Beyond

The Article 370 Judgment & Pakistan’s Conundrum

NEW DELHI: A day after the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the government decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the court’s decision historic. “Today, the dreams of the people are no longer prisoners of the past but are possibilities of the future,” he wrote in a blog. The court also asked the government to hold elections in Jammu and Kashmir by the end of September next year.

Pakistan’s reaction to the judgment was on predicted lines. Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani called it a “travesty of justice”. Pakistan intends to communicate with the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the European Parliament to highlight the issues surrounding the decision, he said.

Alok Bansal, Director of India Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank, believes the court verdict puts Pakistan in a bind. General elections are due in February next year and he doesn’t think a level playing field is going to be provided to all political parties.

“At this moment, you have a government which is actually controlled from Rawalpindi, and they have been trying to say that till normalcy (J&K’s special status) is restored, there can be no talks (with India). Now, this puts them in a very delicate situation because Nawaz Sharif, who’s slated to be the next prime minister, has already said that he wants to talk to India, and he realizes that the only way Pakistan can be salvaged, if at all it can be, is by having normal relations with India that he had realized earlier. But the establishment that doesn’t want it has always pulled the rug from under his feet,” Bansal told StratNews Global Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale.

For a country that has been ruled by military dictators for half of its 75-year history, the army has a big say in political and foreign policy matters. And it suits the generals in Rawalpindi to keep the Kashmir issue burning.

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“The Pakistani army, to have its primacy in the society, has to show to the Pakistani populace that there is an existential fear that exists and there is an existential threat that emanates from India. That threat allows them to become the prima donna in Pakistani society. To my mind, the establishment and Rawalpindi will not let it go,” said Bansal.

And it’s not just the army that’s hard-pressed to justify its unbridled powers and privileges. The same applies to the State that was formed on the basis of religion. “Pakistan has always found it difficult to justify its existence (as a separate country for Muslims) and consequently, from Class III onwards they have a Pakistan studies programme which tries to justify to a young juvenile mind why Pakistan was needed, because logically there was no need for it.”

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