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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 April 2024

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif equates Kashmir with war-ravaged Palestine

'Let’s all come together... and the National Assembly should pass a resolution for the freedom of Kashmiris and Palestinians'

Anita Joshua New Delhi Published 04.03.24, 05:35 AM
Shehbaz Sharif.

Shehbaz Sharif. File picture

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif raked up Kashmir on Sunday in his first remarks to the nation after being elected to the post, equating it to war-ravaged Palestine, while pledging to improve ties with all leading nations including neighbours.

In doing so, Shehbaz displayed the all-too-familiar Pakistani doublespeak on India. PTI reported from Islamabad that in his maiden address, Shehbaz made out a case for a resolution for the freedom of Kashmiris. "Let’s all come together... and the National Assembly should pass a resolution for the freedom of Kashmiris and Palestinians," he said.

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At the same time, pledging to improve ties with all leading nations, including neighbours, without mentioning any country, Shehbaz said: “We will keep ties with neighbours on the basis of equality.”

For Shehbaz — at the head of an uneasy coalition — this is a safe formula to follow: it does not rock the boat internally and not much is expected to change in the Indo-Pak dynamics in the immediate future with India headed for a general election.

There was no immediate response from India to Shehbaz equating Kashmir with Palestine and calling for the freedom of both. Given that this is Shehbaz’s second stint as Premier in two years — during which status quo ante prevailed on the India-Pakistan front — New Delhi is unlikely to make any moves in a hurry. In any case, for the Modi government and its ecosystem, baiting Pakistan is more rewarding politically.

Shehbaz’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), is inclined towards improving ties with India — primarily for business reasons — and his elder brother Nawaz is the keener of the two in this regard. Also, Shehbaz is more in the good books of the army, which always has the final say in relations with India, reining in politicians who seek to steer an independent course.

In his earlier short stint as Prime Minister, Shehbaz had called for talks, but it was followed with an official clarification that negotiations with New Delhi were not possible without the reversal of India’s decision to do away with Article 370 in August 2019, after which Pakistan unilaterally downgraded diplomatic relations with India by recalling its high commissioner.

The two countries have functioned without a high commissioner in either capital since then.

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