Regime Change in Pakistan: Antagonism with US Cost Imran Khan Dear

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Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. — File photo

Maybe the Army was given a choice between peace and Khan, and it opted for peace and sacrificed Khan.

Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India

THEY say Pakistan is run on AAA – Allah, Army and America. It is also an accepted fact that all the three components have a decisive role in shaping the future of that country. The task at hand is to find out which ‘A’ had played a decisive role in removing Imran Khan as the Prime Minister of Pakistan on April 10.

As far as Allah’s role is concerned, it’s apparent that the Almighty has showered His blessings on Imran Khan and brought him at the helm of affairs to guide the destiny of Pakistan. It is only Allah who knows why He consented to the Army and America’s design to remove him. Maybe He has some different plans for him. It is Allah who alone knows what’s in store and the answer to Allah’s role in removing Khan could be hidden in his pet phrase – “Iyyaka Na`budu wa Iyyaka Nasta`een –  You we worship and You we take refuge in.” (Quran 1:5).

Army’s Role

As far as Army’s role in removing Imran Khan is concerned, it can be said that this institution did play a dubious role in removing him. It is well known that it was at the behest of the Army that the former cricketer became the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Then, the Opposition accused the Army of playing a partisan role. Then what went wrong that the Army had to consent his removal. The popular perception is that Khan appointed someone to a key position in the Army without the consent of the Army Chief and this became the reason for his ouster. However, this is a too trivial a reason to believe that could become a factor in ousting Khan.

The actual reason is that the Pakistan Army has a special connection with America which is above everything else.  Remember when the US decided to invade Pakistan and asked General Parvez Musharaf to give consent to become its front-line state and that was obliged by the Army without much fuss. Now, it seems the US has put similar pressure on the Army that it could not refuse. So, Army’s dubious role in choosing America over Khan becomes obvious. Maybe the Army was given a choice between peace and Khan, and it opted for peace and sacrificed Khan.

It is obvious that the people of Pakistan had no role in removing Imran Khan. There is little to suggest that internal forces were responsible for his ouster. The regime change was orchestrated by the US to avenge Imran Khan for not toeing its line on the war in Ukraine. That shows how much America wields influence over Pakistan.

America’s Role  

It is because of Imran Khan’s growing proximity with Russia and China at the expense of the US the two enemies of America. His crime was that he visited Russia on the eve of its invasion of Ukraine. He did not even take permission from the US before going on to sign a significant trade deal with Russia. Khan signed the deal to import 2 million tons of wheat as well as natural gas from Russia worth several billion rubles to reduce its dependence on the US. This was naturally disliked by the US and its Western Allies.

Pakistan’s growing dependence on China too had become an eyesore for the US. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project worth $62 billion under Khan’s tenure was criticised by America. The US was also critical of Pakistan making China an all-weather friend. China being an enemy of the US, and Khan being a friend of China made him an enemy of the US.

Imran Khan’s opposition to America in the past is no secret. He has been openly saying that Pakistan is a client state of America that arm twists Islamabad whenever it has its vested interests. He gave the example of how the US arm-twisted Pakistan to first support its project Afghan Jihad and help in creating Mujahedeen and Taliban. Then the US forced Pakistan to dismantle the Taliban by arm-twisting it to support its war on terror. Khan has been criticising the dubious role of the US in taking 70,000 lives of Pakistan’s armed forces to fight America’s war.

With regard to the Ukraine war, heads of 22 diplomatic missions, including those of EU member states, on March 1, 2022 released a joint letter urging Pakistan to support a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s intervention in Ukraine but Khan did not oblige. Imran Khan countered it by saying, “What do you think of us? Are we your slaves?” This was his justification for Pakistan not condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At a rally on March 27, 2022, Imran spoke of an official communiqué sent by the US that threatened to remove him from his position. He dissolved the National Assembly in the face of an impending no-confidence motion against him citing foreign interference in Pakistan’s internal politics. However, the Supreme Court of Pakistan overruled the dissolution of the House and asked the Opposition to proceed with a no-confidence motion that led to the ouster of Khan.

No-Confidence Vote

In the no-confidence move against Imran Khan, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), MQM, Maulana Fazul Rahman group, and other Opposition parties ganged up against him, but could muster only 174 votes in its favour, just two more than that of Khan’s 172 votes. This suggests how much popularity Khan enjoyed in Parliament.  Imagine the price America could have offered to the Opposition in Pakistan to vote out Imran Khan from office only they know.  Hence, it’s established that the regime change in Pakistan was at the behest of the US with the Army and the Opposition at its beck and call.

Now that Imran Khan is gone, as an academic exercise, it would be prudent to look into four years of Imran Khan’s rule and make a report about his vision and mission, success, and failures.

Promises made by Imran Khan

Imran Khan came to office with 10 big promises – removal of corruption and restoration of accountability, refund of black money, reduced external debts, police reforms, establishment of a university in south Punjab, establishment of a university in PM House, generation of one crore jobs, building of fifty lakh houses, and begining of a new era of economic growth in Pakistan.

Failures of Imran Khan

However, there are many failures to the credit of Imran Khan’s rule that cannot be brushed aside. First and foremost, it is that his avowed mission of accountability for corruption did not take off. During the election campaign, Khan made a lot of noise about ending corruption and bringing accountability. But in reality, he did nothing to address this issue and people felt duped by his promises made.

Second was the failure of Imran Khan in economic management. Before becoming the Prime Minister; Imran Khan made promises to turn around the economy but could not do so. He even said that Pakistan will not go to the IMF for loans and will end inflation and price rise etc. However, he went to IMF for loans. As a result inflation increased and so did the price rise. The economy hardly improved under his regime from where it had started. Imran Khan also failed to deliver his one-crore job promise. He found all the promises that he made were difficult to realise.

Khan’s third failure was to build political coordination within the country.  He was heading a coalition government, but failed to bring his coalition partners together on board. His relations with the Opposition were also not on good terms and this was responsible for all of them uniting against him and overthrowing his government.

His fourth failure was his foreign policy. His relations with China and Russia improved, but he ended up antagonising America. Pakistan had closer ties with Turkey and Malaysia, but this angered Saudi Arabia. Pakistan did not have warm relations with other Arab countries under him. Similarly, relations with India never improved under Imran Khan.

Kashmir policy was a total failure under Imran Khan. He failed to mobilise the global community against India’s move to abrogate articles 370 and 35 A that gave special status to Kashmir. He even could not move the global community on the human rights abuses in Kashmir. He could not prevail upon the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to oppose India’s new initiatives on Kashmir.

Besides, Imran Khan failed to take Pakistan off the “increased monitoring list” of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).  FATF is a global body against money laundering and terror financing.  The FATF asked Pakistan to continue to work to address the important deficiencies and to take action against UN-designated terrorists.

Success of Imran Khan

Imran Khan as the Prime Minister of Pakistan achieved some success that needs to be taken into account for the sake of record. His biggest achievement was that he could be able to contain terrorism and the culture of bomb blasts in his country. The wanton killings in the name of terror by non-state actors came down drastically his regime.

Imran’s second biggest achievement was a catalyst in bringing peace to Afghanistan. Pakistan played a crucial role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table and in the Doha rounds of talk and eventually convincing the US to hand over power to the Taliban.

He achieved a degree of success in controlling the Corona epidemic.  It is widely believed that Imran Khan managed to control Corona despite meagre resources. His policy of lockdown was more practical than that of India and there were fewer corona deaths in comparison to that of India.

The Imran Khan government issued health cards to the people for free treatment for up to 20 thousand rupees. This healthcare measure was widely appreciated.

The housing scheme launched for the low-income section was a huge success which fulfilled one of the electoral promises of Imran Khan.

Through an environmental scheme, his government was successful in planting one billion trees in Pakistan.

The Imran Khan government started a programme called Ehsaas to reduce poverty in the country. Under the scheme, many types of government assistance were extended to the poor that reduced poverty in the country.

The most important success of Imran Khan was the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. It marked a definitive change in Pakistan. It was seen as an attempt to liberate Pakistan from the IMF-led debt entrapment that devastated the country’s economic landscape.

Conclusion

Imran Khan’s close ties with China and Russia at the expense of the US became his nemesis. He could not maintain a cordial relation with the Western countries especially the United States while forging ties with the enemies of the US.

This is not the first time that regime change has taken place in Pakistan. The role of the US in the air crash of Gen. Zia ul Huq is well documented. He too had resisted US involvement in the internal politics of Pakistan. Imran should have avoided bragging about Pakistan’s independent foreign policy and sovereignty.

The Army supported the US move to oust Khan because of Pakistan’s dependence on the US for its Arms and also for its exports to both US and the European Union and its dependence on the IMF and World Bank. By opposing the US, he shot in his foot. However, he was lucky enough to survive the fate of Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, who had openly opposed the US.

Well, it was the hidden hand of Allah that saved Imran Khan from an ignominious exit that had been the fate of other anti-US leaders. Here, the role of Allah comes in play vividly who gave Khan a chance to rise from the ashes when it’s time for the next election in Pakistan.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai, India. He is a scholar of South Asia and closely follows Pakistan. The views expressed here author’s peronal. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com

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