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There is no denying the fact that the change has occurred in Pakistan. The duopoly of power has been broken; something akin to Aam Aadmi Party winning the Delhi Assembly Elections. For the first time, Imran Khan’s PTI will lead a government at the Federal Level which is not a small achievement. The voting pattern has been extraordinary in different provinces. But allegations persist that this ‘change’ has supposedly been managed. Foreign observers and Pakistani comments suggest that the Pakistan Army stands accused of having ‘fixed’ the election.

Which may or may not be true, but it needs addressing since all perceptions are based on at least a piece of truth. But addressing that allegation, and others, is the business of Pakistan Army, an institution that has and will continue to play a significant role in the domestic and international affairs of the country it is supposed to protect. Imran Khan has done nothing, so far, to suggest that he is under the tutelage of the Pakistan Army.

India has greeted Imran Khan with dignity that his victory deserves. Gentle tentative steps are being taken to suggest that a dialogue can began sometime. Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, is actually an old hand in the ministry, and in dealing with India. May his tenure this time around have better chances of an actual dialogue rather than being sabotaged by terrorist incidents as in the past! The only problem being that India is getting into election mode rather soon and attention to esoteric things like foreign policy tend to take a back seat during poll time.

So, it is time that an institutional framework is drawn out that sustains talks and dialogues among the political fraternity. Officials of the two foreign ministries could put together a system whereby a routine dialogue continues, and which doesn’t require constant political interface. That would go a long way in clearing the air and producing a conducive environment for further enhancement of relations. Anything that increases people’s interaction with each other across the boundary must be encouraged. It cannot remain solely a Wagah foot stomping exercise where people act as cheerleaders of jingoism.

The time has come to accept the prevailing reality. Just as dialogue with China is structured around the ‘new reality’, it is time to accept the fact that the army is a significant policy-player in Pakistan. It is well-nigh time that the two countries put together a structured dialogue process between the two militaries. For too long now, Pakistan has been subject to the fears of its army influencing domestic and foreign policies. Thus, bringing much misery to its people and neighbours’, east and west. It is time that a dialogue begin that puts a rest to these imagined fears and pave the way to new normality. Both countries need it, as do their people.

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