Decidedly pro-China, Pakistani PM Imran Khan presented with spectacle of being voted out of power in April 2022, virulently charged the United States of regime change attempts and in tandem stoking an unprecedented Constitutional crisis in unstable nuclear armed Pakistan.
Pakistan stands plunged into both political and geopolitical uncertainties by the Constitutional crisis fires stoked by Imran Khan to emerge as a political martyr portraying himself as the last Pakistani man standing between Pakistan and United States threatening Pakistan’s National Security.
Implicitly, Imran Khan has targeted the Pakistan Army as an institution because despite Pakistan Army’s heavy dependence on Chinese weapons and military inventories, the Pakistan Army Generals were always Pro-American. They thrived on political control of Pakistani domestic politics on the strength of United States & the West finacial support.
So while Pakistan Supreme Court unravels the Constitutional crisis inflicted by PM Imran Khan, the Pakistan Army Chief distancing himself from Imran Khan’s Anti-Americanism has publicly asserted that Pakistan Army wishes to continue a long-term strategic relationship with United States and in tandem seek better relations with India,
Pakistan will be engulfed in political turbulence for the coming few months as in different scenarios unfolding. PM Imran Khan will be tempted to pitch “Street Power” to challenge any adverse Supreme Court rulings and even challenge Pakistan Army with “Street Power”.
Targeting the United States for conspiracy to displace him as Pakistan PM, Imran Khan hoped to inflame Pakistanis latent Anti-Americanism to lend weight to his fight for political survival, to please his Chinese patrons and to challenge the Pakistan Army Chief’s patience with whom Imran Khan had lately fallen out.
United States-Pakistan relations can never be the same and China could possibly have second thoughts on the ‘political utility’ of Imran Khan for China’s strategic interests even if he were to return to power in fresh General Elections in Pakistan.
The China-factor being in play cannot be analytically ruled out going by virtually voted-out PM Imran Khan’s past records of close linkages with China. In the run-up to his election campaign in 2018 ex-PM Imran Khan, the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad was virtually scripting hi selection campaign and Imran Khan was in constant touch with the Chinese Embassy as per Pakistani reports then.
On being “selected” by Pakistan Army in a managed election for being Prime Minister of Pakistan, PM Imran Khan adopted a striking anti-US stance with an equally more striking pro-China tilt than past Pakistani PMs.
As Prime Minister, Imran Khan colluded with China to prompt an early military exit of US Forces from Afghanistan and installation of a Pro-Imran Khan and Pro-China Afghan Taliban Government in Kabul.
In fact, PM Imran Khan’s fall-out with Pakistan Army Chief was when he opposed change of then ISI Chief who furthered the combined script of Imran Khan and China in Kabul. After a month of digging-in his heels on not signing on the new ISI Chief proposed by Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa, PM Imran Khan reluctantly had t yield.
PM Imran Khan on assuming office as PM haughtily declared that he would not seek any loans from US-controlled global financial institutions like the IMF. Lack of adequate Chinese loans and past Saudi munificence to bail out Pakistan’s strained finances forced PM Imran Khan to go with begging bowl to IMF.
PM Imran Khan was stung more by new US President Biden not even giving him the courtesy of a telephone call to a former US ally. The United States had also not forgotten Imran Khan’s days and utterances supporting the Afghan Taliban against the United States leading to him earning the sobriquet of ‘Taliban Khan’.
Yet it was the same PM Imran Khan who manipulated to seek an audience with then US President Trump using Senator Lindsey Graham to shore up his political standing in Pakistan. The present Anti-Americanism stance now of PM Imran Khan is questionable.
Without floating conspiracy theories, but as an analyst, one cannot ignore the uncanny coincidences linking PM Imran Khan to China and Russia in recent weeks. PM Imran Khan was in Moscow the day Russian President Putin ordered invasion of Ukraine. Reports suggested that it was China which had prevailed over Russian President to accept Imran Khan’s visit.
The Chinese Foreign Minister was in Islamabad as Special Invitee for OIC Foreign Ministers Meet in Islamabad preceding the present Constitutional crisis engineered by Imran Khan. At the height of the ongoing crisis Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in Beijing and rushed back for the No Confidence Vote in National Assembly moved by Pakistan’s combined Political Opposition.
PM Imran Khan and his assertive Foreign Minister Qureshi, himself a Pak PM- aspirant for years, and architect of Imran Government heavily loaded pro-China policy, would not have stoked a Constitutional crisis, even defying Pakistan Army Chief virtually without China-backing, ostensibly.
Reverting back to Pakistan’s ongoing Constitutional crisis, the first indicators emerging from ongoing Supreme Court proceedings is that the Supreme Court would be inclined that PM Imran Khan faces the No Confidence Motion admitted in National Assembly by voting and not the subterfuge of the Deputy Speaker dismissing the Motion on grounds of National Security.
Contingencies flowing from either way the Constitutional crisis is resolved by Supreme Court or by Pakistan Army intervention, the chances are that Pakistan PM Imran Khan is unlikely to accept any adverse development threatening his political survival. Imran Khan will be heavily tempted to marshal Pakistani “Street Power” to ensure his political survival.
Pakistani Opposition parties, now combined as never before, and shored up by the strength of numbers in National Assembly on their side can also be said to also marshal corresponding “Street Power” against Imran Khan’s political survival tactics.
Before concluding, it needs to be pointed out that in the run-up to this present Pakistani political crisis, PM Imran Khan’s image and standing was in the dumps. Pakistan was in an economic melt-down and Pakistan’s foreign policy a failure on all counts, except on China.
Obviously, PM Imran Khan had to manufacture a Constitutional crisis to divert Pakistani attention from his political failures to deliver his promises of a ‘Naya Pakistan” on the strength of which he came into power.
Concluding, Pakistan’s ensuing political turbulence in the coming months, which could even end up as a second Civil War in Pakistan, should be a matter of deep concern to Major Powers and Pakistan’s neighbourhood going by the fact that security and stability beyond Pakistan’s borders gets affected by an “unstable” nuclear weapons Islamic State of Pakistan still on FATF terrorism list.
Dr. Subhash Kapila
Dr Subhash Kapila combines a rich and varied professional experience of Indian Army Brigadier ( Veteran), diplomatic assignments in the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan. Served in India’s Cabinet Secretariat also. He is a Graduate of Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley, UK, Msc Defence Studies from Madras University and a Doctorate in Strategic Studies from Allahabad University. Papers have been presented by him in International Seminars in Japan,Turkey, Russia and Vietnam. Credited to him are over 1,500 Papers on geopolitical & strategic topical issues and foreign policies of USA, Japan, India, China and Indo Pacific Asia. He has authored two Books : “India’s Defence Policies & Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis” and “China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives”