The reason Pakistan's Imran Khan should thank India for scrapping Article 370
Imran's obsession with Kashmir
Since August 5, , Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's obsession with Kashmir has reached unprecedented levels and it is visible most prominently in his tweets.
Of the 95 times he has tweeted since August 5 (till September 12), 71 tweets have reference to India, 56 contain the words Kashmir or Kashmiris and 19 mention Modi. Apart from this, he has made a special speech on Kashmir in Pakistan's national assembly and used the country's Independence Day to speak about India and its PM for more than 30 minutes.(Imran Khan's most recent tweet that mentions Kashmir)
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An old problem
Khan rose to power with the promise to improve the economic situation of his country. After a year in office (he won elections in July last year), the downward slide of the economy has continued. He had said Pakistan won't go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seeking a bailout (and focus on West Asia and China) but has done exactly the opposite. The IMF approved a $6 billion bailout for Pakistan in May (the 13th time in 30 years) in addition to the country getting loans from China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Before elections, Khan had called for the country to be less economically reliant on the US but is trying to convince the US for more funds. Khan was an outspoken opponent of drone strikes by the US in Pakistan's tribal areas. Just last week, the in the "Afghanistan /Pakistan region" (the killing of Osama had raised questions over sovereignty in Pakistan).
The big headache
It's the economy. Pakistan has a ballooning balance-of-payment crisis (its foreign exchange reserves are enough to cover just about two months' worth of imports), its budget deficit (at 8.9% of GDP) is the highest in about 20 years, its liabilities (at over Pakistan Rs 40 trillion) exceed the size of its economy and manufacturing growth (at 3.6%) is at a decade low. Its rupee has lost over a third of its value compared to the US dollar in the last year, foreign direct investments have fallen 60% compared to last year and it was forced to borrow $16 billion in 2018-19 to avoid running out of foreign currency. Not exactly the kind of numbers to boast about.
Two meetings scheduled for next month could squeeze Pakistan's financial situation further. The Financial Action Task Force, which had placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries with weak laws to tackle money laundering and terror financing, will meet in Bangkok to review the progress on its suggestions to avoid being pushed into the black list. Black listing would lead to financial downgrade for Pakistan, restrictions on its markets and fund inflows from abroad. The same month, the IMF will also initiate review of the country's compliance with the conditions it had put under its bailout programme. IMF has released only the first tranche of $991 million of its $6 billion loan.
The Kashmir plan
Raising the Kashmir pitch helps Imran divert people's attention from rising unemployment and inflation or the threat of having to increase taxes as required by the IMF. Raising the spectre of war is aimed at telling the world that Pakistan is being pushed into a corner and the consequences of 'destabilising' Pakistan. The rhetoric is expected to culminate in the address at the UN General Assembly on September 27. The country is also seeking US intervention for relief from the tough conditions of the FATF and the IMF in return for its services in Afghanistan.