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Did the United States play a role in the overthrow of Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan?


Imran Khan, the outgoing prime minister, tapped into a popular trope in Pakistan that the US is up to something. He constantly pointed the finger at Washington for the crisis the country is experiencing

Imran Khan is a legend for many Pakistanis. He hopes this star power will serve him well in any upcoming election. PA

Pakistan, a nuclear nation home to some 220 million people, is in a political mess.

On April 3, 2022, Prime Minister – and former national sporting hero – Imran Khan dissolved parliament to preempt a vote of no confidence. That vote would have seen parliamentarians decide whether or not to back Khan’s premiership and likely saw him ousted from power.

What happens next is in the hands of the nation’s Supreme Court and, after that, the nation’s voters. Pakistani American researcher Ayesha Jalal, a professor of history at Tufts University, helps explain what is happening – and what could happen next.

What just happened in Pakistan?

A vote of no confidence, first presented as a motion by Pakistan’s opposition parties on March 8, was due to take place. But he was repeatedly delayed as Khan tried to cling on to power.

Finally, on April 3, the National Assembly was to vote. Instead, Khan’s new justice minister issued a statement in parliament alleging a foreign plot to unseat the government, accused the opposition of treason and filed a motion with the vice president to drop the vote. of censorship. Khan then dissolved the National Assembly and called for a snap national election.

There is no precedent for any of this in Pakistan, and it goes against the normal democratic process. Opposition lawmakers have filed a petition challenging Khan’s bet, and it’s now up to the Supreme Court to decide.

In short, Pakistan is plunged into a serious constitutional crisis.

What prompted the calls for a vote of no confidence?

The basic charge against Imran Khan is mismanagement, particularly in Punjab – Pakistan’s second largest province by land area and most populous.

Khan came to power in 2018 promising a “new Pakistan” and an end to the corruption that has been part of Pakistani politics for decades. But he did not keep that promise. The Khan-appointed chief minister in Punjab, Usman Buzdar, has been accused of widespread corruption, accepting bribes and receiving money in exchange for bureaucratic appointments. Even members of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party broke with the prime minister over his support for the outgoing chief minister of Punjab.

On top of that, Khan has been criticized for his handling of everything from the pandemic to soaring inflation in the country.

Where does the United States come from?

With his position as prime minister under threat, Khan fell back on a tried-and-true tactic in Pakistani politics: blame the United States.

Khan’s new narrative is that there is an alien conspiracy to oust him from power. And it’s America, says Khan, that’s really behind the no-confidence motion tabled by opposition lawmakers.

He accused US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu of being involved in the plot to overthrow his government, suggesting that Lu had warned Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington that there would be implications if Khan survived the vote of defiance.

The United States has denied this claim, and Khan has provided no supporting evidence. But he taps into a popular trope in Pakistan that the US is up to something. Anti-Americanism flies in Pakistan. So Khan plays on a well-integrated narrative by pointing the finger at Washington.

How have relations between the United States and Pakistan been lately?

Khan thought her relationship with former President Donald Trump was pretty good. But relations have certainly cooled under President Joe Biden. Khan has criticized the Biden administration over the withdrawal of US troops from neighboring Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Pakistani prime minister has found it convenient to portray himself as someone who has long opposed the US drone program, which targeted suspected terrorist sites in the country’s northeast but is responsible for hundreds of deaths. among civilians in parts of Pakistan.

That said, the Pakistani military is still heavily dependent on the United States, and as such Pakistani generals will want to maintain some semblance of good relations with Washington.

But at the highest political level, it’s fair to say that relations with the United States are not good – “terrible” was the word used by Khan in a 2021 interview. It was not helped by the perception of Khan that his government was snubbed and ignored by Biden.

Sounds like Khan has a bruised ego?

Khan is a superstar with a huge ego. You have to remember that he was a superstar before he was prime minister, having captained the country’s national cricket team and a world jet setter. It is no exaggeration to say that Imran Khan is a legend for many Pakistanis.

He hopes this star power will serve him well in any upcoming election.

Is that okay?

He certainly has a very loyal support base. But it’s unclear whether he trumps that of the other parties combined – and a coalition of opposition parties could win enough seats to oust Khan in an election. Indeed, Khan only ever ruled with a very small mandate – his party failed to win a majority of seats in parliament and needed the support of smaller parties. And its own members have disavowed it in light of recent events. I also doubt that many people in Pakistan believe in the plot that the US is trying to overthrow him.

He will also struggle to win Punjab given the mismanagement he is accused of there. And without Punjab, you cannot run Pakistan.

So what happens next?

You never know with Pakistani politics – anything is possible. After all, it is very rare for governments in Pakistan to complete a full term. But regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the vote of no confidence, it looks like Pakistan is heading for an election within the next 90 days.

It will be a bitter, bitter election – and held in the middle of Pakistan’s hot summer. Uncertainty, politics and potential unrest could dominate the coming months.

That doesn’t sound good. What’s the worst that can happen?

The danger is that Khan does not accept electoral defeat and takes his fight against supporters to the streets. If a political crisis becomes a public order issue, the military – never far removed from Pakistani politics and seemingly losing patience with Khan – might decide enough is enough and move in.

That said, there is little appetite among the population for a military dictatorship.

[Understand key political developments, each week. Subscribe to The Conversation’s politics newsletter.]Did the United States play a role in the overthrow of Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan?

Ayesha Jalal, history teacher, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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