Tuesday, March 29, 2022
The political climate in Pakistan is very stormy — a season of daily truths and untruths, fanciful facts and conspiracies. New political stories have surfaced on a daily basis. However, the numbers in parliament will determine if the prime minister stays or is sent home after the Opposition’s vote of no-confidence.
So while the fate of the no-confidence vote is awaited, many stories are being told – some real, some mythical, and much myth-making too. The most significant story that has emerged in the last few days, articulated by the PM himself in his speech at a mammoth jalsa in Islamabad on Sunday night, has to do with an alleged conspiracy being hatched in foreign capitals to remove him, with local politicians part of the plan that sees Pakistan being threatened by a foreign country. The prime minister has claimed that he has evidence of Pakistan having been threatened, a letter he says he has but which can't be revealed openly because it would compromise Pakistan’s interests. On further inquiry, it has been revealed that the army's top command has seen “the threat”.
On the eve of the PM’s departure to Russia, there was apparently a high-level conversation between Pakistan and another government, regarding concerns about the visit. There is no known letter but perhaps the transcript of the above-mentioned conversation may be there.
We know that, starting from Liaquat Ali Khan on relations with the Muslim world and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on the nuclear bomb and the Muslim world and down the road, many leaders in Pakistan have had to face pressure and worse at varying degrees regarding Pakistan’s foreign policy – principally from Washington. And within Pakistan, there have been divisions within the government and its various arms and institutions on policy matters.
Even at present, it is said that PM Imran Khan has dictated policy, which has not necessarily been supported by others. But the PM’s speech on Sunday night went beyond what was happening previously – his team using some facts to build up a story about a foreign conspiracy.
The fact is that the PM’s foreign policy has no doubt irked many foreign governments. There are some interesting facts regarding Pakistan’s current foreign policy and its related issues. First, Imran Khan’s foreign policy is not popular in certain Western capitals – especially his stance on Kashmir and India, Palestine, and Ukraine.
Second, the prime minister's foreign policy positions are principled and continue Pakistan’s past practice of taking difficult but correct decisions in times that have been tough for Pakistan, for example on Yemen, Syria, Bosnia and Palestine. Third, many Pakistan-based diplomats seem to think that with the prime minister gone matters will be better on the Pak-India front, on Russia and on the US front as well.
Fourth, the PM’s March 6 statement — questioning whether Pakistan is seen as a slave, given the way EU envoys issued a statement saying Pakistan should condemn Russia on Ukraine, and that the EU should have asked India too to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine — created quite a commotion among a section of Pakistanis, including some politicians who argued that such statements would hurt Pakistan’s trade ties with EU countries.
The fact is that the statement was no policy disaster and was unlikely to negatively impact EU-Pakistan relations or bilateral trade. The noise against the PM’s statement about the EU’s press release was exaggerated. Clearly, the reactions of many within our politics were not about diplomacy or foreign policy, but the current state of domestic politics.
Finally, foreign diplomats who meet Pakistan’s security managers regularly generally seem to believe that they understand global politics and know what it takes to improve Pakistan’s relations with other countries. The PM’s views on foreign policy do not sit well with diplomats – not just in the case of Russia and Ukraine but on other issues too.
Some would think that the above facts make it easy to conclude that there is an international conspiracy against Prime Minister Imran Khan. However, there is no evidence to prove such a claim and the international conspiracy assertion appears like a convenient conclusion for those who want to show that the Opposition’s voice of no-confidence must not be supported. Clearly, the vote of no-confidence was moved by the Opposition because it believes that because of the internal situation there is an opportunity to oust the PM.
For now, the political moves indicate that the Opposition may manage the magic number for the prime minister’s removal. Yet, as we have seen in Pakistan before, it’s not over till it’s over. And while which way the winds blow is anyone’s guess, to attach foreign conspiracies to this vote is completely unfounded.
There is no evidence of foreign governments having played any role in planning or executing the removal of the Imran Khan government through a vote of no-confidence, despite there no doubt being many policies of the PM other governments disagree with. The PM has made a huge charge and he owes it to the nation to lift the veil from this allegation for his own credibility.
The writer is a senior journalist who can be reached at [email protected] and @nasimzehra on Twitter
Originally published in The News