Is Pak Army now playing mind games with Imran?

The Pakistan Army’s ways are truly inscrutable. Every few days new dates are floated for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s swearing-in as Prime Minister. Even a day ahead of the country’s Independence Day on August 14 may have been apposite for the new civilian leader to take charge. It’s nearly three weeks since the July 25 election, but there’s no official word yet on any date, though there has been speculation.

The question, therefore arises — is the Army playing mind games vis-a-vis the Prime Minister-elect in order to leave him in no doubt on who will call the shots even if Mr Khan may see himself as an international personality in his own right.

Through the moving schedule for the new PM’s swearing-in, what has remained constant, though, is the consideration of inviting a few Indian cricketers who have played with Mr Khan at the highest level. This may be Mr Khan’s idea, or it may be the Army’s. It’s even probable the two agree on this. If the suggestion has dual backing, it will be easier to surmise that all concerned feel the need to walk back from the tense situation that has characterised India-Pakistan ties over the past two years.

That is no bad thing even if it does not serve as an opening for a political engagement. This doesn’t seem the most opportune moment to start political moves. It was in light of this that Pakistan didn’t invite any foreign political leader.

The Army wasn’t in favour of this though Mr Khan’s party, in its naivete, had at the beginning expressed the desire to invite all South Asian leaders. It is clear the idea found no traction with the Army, which could not be sure if India’s PM Narendra Modi could accept at the present juncture.

But this did seem a good time for Indian participation in some form — and the thought of having Indian cricketers over for the inaugural of a legendary Pakistani cricketer as PM is not rocket science.

People’s ambassadors like sports stars or artists and writers usually do not cause trouble unless a hostile political group in the host country calculatedly decides to make a point, as the Shiv Sena has done in Mumbai and a militant outfit in Pakistan when Sri Lankan cricketers were visiting.

The Indian PM telephoned Mr Khan on his victory. In a statement India endorsed the Pakistani election as being democratic while it was being criticised internationally. It is to be seen if Islamabad builds on these openings offered by New Delhi. Former cricketers Kapil Dev and Navjot Singh Sidhu, a minister in the Punjab government, have accepted

Mr Khan’s invitation. We hope they get the clearances they need to travel. If they do make the trip eventually, how they are treated will be watched very closely.

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