After military and China, Imran Khan government now surrenders to extremists

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Nov 24, 2020, 03:42 AM IST

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan (file photo). Photograph:(PTI)

Story highlights

When things were seen that they couldn't get any worse, Khan decided to surrender to the nation's religious extremists

When Imran Khan became prime minister of Pakistan in 2018, he promised of creating a 'Naya Pakistan' or a 'New Pakistan'. 

Khan said Pakistan will become an Islamic welfare state, provide jobs to 10 million people and restore nation's tattered image abroad. 

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Now is the time to understand what happened to these promises. 

The cricketer-turned-politician first gave in to the whims and fancies of the Pakistani military. He was then accused of being a puppet in the hands of the Chinese government. The welfare state that he vowed was never built. 

However, when things were seen that they couldn't get any worse, Khan decided to surrender to the nation's religious extremists. 

Let's go back to 2018 when Pakistan's top court acquitted Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges. 

Bibi, who was arrested in June 2009, should have been free after the Supreme Court's order, but she was kept in protective custody. 

This was because religious hardliners took to the streets of Pakistan, organised violent protests and some even threatened to kill her. The protests paralysed Pakistan for three days. 

The Christian woman had to wait another year to fly out to Canada, reunite with her family and finally feel freedom.

Fast forward to November 2020. Pakistan is once again held hostage by religious hardliners and the government again seems helpless. 

Last weekend, extremist religious cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi organised a protest against the republication of the Prophet's cartoons in France. 

His followers first assembled at Rawalpindi and then reached Islamabad border. 

In a moments time, both the cities were virtually besieged, not just for hours, but for two days, with communication services shut down. 

The helpless government instead signed an agreement with Rizvi's party. 

Last week, the Pakistani government bowed down to hardlines who had taken to streets against French President Emmanuel Macron. 

Khan was compelled to sign a deal with hardliners to cut diplomatic ties with Paris. 

The government promised to enact legislation which would ultimately lead to the expulsion of the French Ambassador from Pakistan. 

It also promised to have French products boycotted at a government level. 

Can Pakistan snap ties with France?

France is one of the most important members of the European Union and Pakistan's top trade partners. 

A 2016 study showed that Pakistan's import from France amounts to about 9 per cent of its total import from EU.

Several critical military equipment of Pakistan comes from France, which include Mirage fighter jet, Agosta-90B submarines, Minehunters, among others. 

Pakistan gave in to the demands of a religious extremist and this explains the country's priorities at a time when troubles inside the country keep on rising. 

Some of these include intensifying Covid-19 crisis, the biggest decline in Pakistan's stock exchange in 10 years, food inflation, and unemployment, among others.

The country also faces the risk of getting blacklisted in the terror financing issue. 

Let's take a look at some of the figures. 

According to the World Bank, Pakistan's real GDP growth is estimated to have declined from 1.9 per cent in FY 2019 to -1.5 per cent in FY20. 

Pakistan rupee has depreciated 13.8 per cent against the US dollar in FY20. 

Its export values contracted 7.5 per cent and external debt has grown to 38.2 per cent of the GDP. 

Instead of addressing these worrisome figures, Khan is busy allowing fundamentalists to set its agenda. 

There have been protests against France in other countries, but those countries' leaders did not bow down to these invisible forces as Khan did. 

In which part of the world, a democratically elected party has struck a deal with extremists on the country's foreign policies. 

By putting military, then China and now extremists first, the Imran Khan govt is betraying those people because of whom he came to power.