An Open Letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Covid-19 & Kashmir

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Imran Khan's
Imran Khan's "job" as "Prime Minister Pakistan" is under threat.

Dear Imran Khan sahib,
I must admit that while your recent statement “My worry is poverty and hunger,” made during The Associated Press interview really impressed me, the humility and grace with which you accepted the reality of Pakistan being a “very vulnerable” country in terms of economy, won over my heart. But it was the enthusiasm with which you voluntarily donned the mantle of an ambassador representing countries with fragile economies and asking the world community to “think of some sort of a debt write-off” due to Covid-19 pandemic, made me a big fan of yours. I recall with great awe, how after New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Indian constitution, you announced that you would henceforth serve as “Kashmir ka safir” (ambassador of Kashmir).

What’s really remarkable is your penchant for taking up cudgels for those whom you think have been forsaken by the cruel world of today in which we live!

No nation would have ever riled against another country’s decision to amend its own constitution, but you have done so and even when no one stood by Pakistan on this issue, rather than being embarrassed and losing heart, you as Kashmir’s ‘safir’ boldly declared that “whether the world is with the Kashmiris or not, we are standing with them.” Your much publicized attempt to get UNSC to compel India to restore status quo ante on Article 370 may have failed miserably, but yet it didn’t dampen your indomitable spirit; you had to abandon your plans to approach the International Court of Justice against revocation of Article 370 once your attorney told you that he saw no merit in the case, but you swallowed your pride and stood your ground.

But the most impressive thing is that despite your humungous responsibilities as Prime Minister Pakistan, you still take your self-assumed role of Kashmir’s ambassador very-very seriously!

I say so because while the burgeoning Covid-19 crisis in Pakistan and the resultant fallout and chaos doesn’t seem to be unduly worrying or giving you sleepless nights, recurring nightmares about an imaginary and imminent apocalypse in Kashmir is surely nagging you, day in and day out! What’s really touching is that even though your 800 odd students stuck in Wuhan, (which was the epicentre of Covid-19 pandemic) kept making frantic appeals for been brought back home, their cries and demeaning statements like ‘learn from India, shame on you’ didn’t upset you, but the lockdown in Kashmir surely did!

Similarly, you didn’t become hyper when people of Balochistan kept on complaining about lack of medical facilities to screen people for Covid-19 and the abysmal living conditions in the Taftan quarantine camp, which was even highlighted by the international media.

But while your detractors may criticize you for your tardy domestic responses on Covid-19 related issues, even your biggest critic cannot accuse you of abandoning the people of Kashmir as your Foreign Office didn’t for even a moment stop its “Pakistan urges India to lift the blockade in the region (J&K)” and asking the international community to press New Delhi into “lifting of communication restrictions and allowing unfettered access to medical and other essential supplies.”

Even when it came to the SAARC heads of state putting their minds together and working out modalities for a coordinated response to the Covid-19 pandemic, you showed your solidarity for the people of Kashmir by wangling out and nominating Health Minister Zafar Mirza to represent you. But while you may have absented yourself, you still ensured that Kashmir is somehow brought into the discussion. However, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed by the unimaginative way in which it was raised because what you thought would prove to be a ‘show stopper’ turned instead into a ‘non-issue’!

While Pakistan may be the only member state that hasn’t contributed to SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Fund, but that’s acceptable since it is (by your admission) a “very vulnerable” country. So, rather than feeling shy, Pakistan must use this fact to extract a very generous amount from this fund and no one would mind as yours is the only country within SAARC group of nations that falls in the “very vulnerable” category.

At the same time, while the old ‘extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures’ adage justifies begging for funds and assistance from all and sundry, but accepting even a single Rupee from India would not only be ‘haraam’ (forbidden) but also an affront to the people of Kashmir. So, as an afterthought, you may reconsider taking monetary assistance from the SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Fund as the bulk of it ($10 million or 53%, to be precise) comes from the land of ‘kafirs’ (non-believers)!

I end with my deep appreciation of your innate ability of not letting domestic problems overshadow your commitment to the people of Kashmir, even if it is unsolicited and hasn’t yielded any positive results whatsoever.

With highest regards,

Your Ardent “Fan”,
Nilesh Kunwar

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