According to a report by Pakistan’s Dawn.com, Pakistan’s Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry has reported on an attempted anti-government conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Imran Khan. A little earlier, one of the leaders of Pakistan’s ruling Justice Movement, Faisal Wawda, had also reported on ARY News’ “Off the Record” program that a plot was being hatched to kill Imran Khan over his refusal to “sell the country”. During an address to the nation on March 31, Imran Khan pledged to foil an “international conspiracy” orchestrated by the opposition and its foreign handlers seeking a vote of no-confidence against the government in parliament.
Behind all these attempts at unceremonious interference in the internal affairs of the country, Pakistan sees a distinct trace of the US determined to thus “punish” Imran Khan for his change and independence from Washington in foreign policy. For instance, during a rally of supporters in Islamabad on March 27, Imran Khan showed everyone a letter which said that a conspiracy was being prepared to overthrow his government. On March 31, while addressing the nation, he mentioned the US and said that the opposition parties had become part of the plan. According to the Prime Minister, the letter threatens that if there is no resignation, Pakistan “will have to face the consequences”.
The anti-government conspiracy comes against the backdrop of the vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister scheduled for April 3. Statement on the issue was filed by an alliance of opposition parties on March 8, arguing that Imran Khan lost his parliamentary majority after several MPs from his Justice Movement party quit and the MQM-P decision to support the united opposition in a resolution of no confidence against the Prime Minister. A key ally of the PTI government, the MQM-P has seven seats in the National Assembly, and following its decision to part ways with the government, the opposition has secured the support of 177 MPs, five more than the 172 needed to win a majority. At the same time, the Pakistani government is accused by the opposition of the difficult economic situation in the country and of “uncontrolled inflation”, although the authorities believe that the opposition leaders are seeking the Prime Minister’s resignation due to the anti-corruption crackdown in Pakistan launched by Imran Khan’s government.
Washington’s criticism of the US-independent policies of the Imran Khan government has recently become particularly acute with Pakistan’s advocating cooperation with China (especially in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and with Russia, which has aroused resentment in the US. Also in early March, the Pakistani Prime Minister harshly criticized the ambassadors of twenty Western countries who had sent him a collective letter “inviting” Islamabad to support a UN resolution condemning Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. “What do you think of us? Are we your slaves… that whatever you say, we will do?” the politician said resenting the letter. Meanwhile, Imran Khan recalled that the last time Pakistan supported US and NATO action in Afghanistan, there was a wave of violence and resentment across the country.
Pakistan was notoriously an ally of the US during and after the Cold War. After 9/11, however, relations between the countries began to deteriorate sharply. From 2004 to 2018, the US attacked thousands of targets in northwest Pakistan, along the Afghan border, with drones. Some media called these attacks a “drone war”. The George W. Bush government officially denied the scale of the attacks, but in May 2013 the Barack Obama administration acknowledged for the first time that US citizens had been killed in the strikes. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif repeatedly demanded an end to the strikes, calling it a “violation of territorial integrity” and noting that such attacks hamper efforts to eliminate terrorism. In an autobiography published in 2012, Pakistan: A Personal History, Imran Khan openly criticized the United States for the attacks. He wrote that America’s face has blackened not only because of its invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, but also because of the ruthless onslaught of drones. In addition, Imran Khan accused the US of supporting Iraq in the war against Iran.
The US Department of State Office of Inspector General, in its 2018 report to Congress, identified major challenges for the United States in its relations with Pakistan, while stressing that Washington is losing influence over Islamabad. “The South Asian strategy is to encourage Pakistan to destroy terrorist and militant sanctuaries on its territory. For three months, America has made no visible progress on this issue.” Pakistan has denied allegations that the country supports militants who pose a threat to Afghanistan. Notably, in December 2018, as Prime Minister, Imran Khan gave a detailed interview to the Washington Post in which he completely refuted the US accusations against Pakistan and declared his intention to pursue an independent policy.
However, it is understandable that the main reason for the cooling of relations between Islamabad and Washington is not the developments in Afghanistan or the issue of terrorism, but Pakistan’s rapprochement with China and Russia. Beijing has long declared its big plans for Pakistan: in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping initiated the construction of a transport network that would link Chinese territory to the Indian Ocean coast via Pakistan. The Chinese authorities have said they are ready to invest about $46 billion in roads, railways and pipelines. There has also been talk of military and political cooperation. For example, in 2016, China’s CSIC Shipbuilding Industry Corporation was contracted to supply eight multi-purpose submarines to Pakistan.
After his recent visit to Russia, Imran Khan began openly playing the anti-American card.
A similar policy was pursued in the 1970s by Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who began building relations with China and the Soviet Union, for which he was disliked in the US. Bhutto claimed that the United States was preparing a “global conspiracy” to remove him with the help of political opponents. And a confirmation of this was the US-organized conspiracy that saw General Zia-ul-Haq impose martial law in Pakistan and Bhutto sentenced to death on July 5, 1977, using the support of the opposition.
As for the current authorities in Washington, one of the reasons for Joe Biden’s displeasure with Pakistan could have been the words of Imran Khan, who predicted Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US elections, and his repeated criticisms of White House policies in recent times.
In objectively assessing US interference in the current situation in Pakistan, one must not forget that the US has intervened in 50 countries more than 130 times in the last decades alone, too often being complicit in the assassination of political leaders they do not like. One of the most recent victims on July 7, 2021 was Haitian President Jovenel Moïse: Haitian authorities claim the attack was carried out by an organized group of 26 retired Colombian military officers and two Americans of Haitian origin.
As everyone is too well aware, politicians murdered by US intelligence agencies fall into two main categories. First, those who, to Washington’s displeasure, proved to be patriots of their country and thereby interfered with the predatory policies of the US. Second, overzealous American handmaidens, who at some point turned into a liability for Washington. If the leader of a country is disliked by the US, they start bombing that country: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya… A colored revolution is another option. Since a color revolution is a technique for undemocratic change of power, it is not democrats who are put at the helm of a country affected by a color revolution. Case in point: Ukraine.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.