The Ouster Of Imran Khan: How A lot Involvement Did the US Have in Pakistan’s Coup?

ISLAMABAD – Following weeks of excessive drama and controversy which have racked the nation, Imran Khan…

ISLAMABAD – Following weeks of excessive drama and controversy which have racked the nation, Imran Khan has been faraway from workplace. The Pakistani prime minister suffered a vote of no confidence and a loss within the supreme courtroom, ending his rule after lower than 4 years. Coalition companions deserted him, leaving his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) celebration within the minority.

The cricket-star-turned-political-leader had been warning for some weeks {that a} international energy – assumed to be the US – was looking for to overthrow him due to his impartial international coverage, which noticed Pakistan develop nearer to Russia and China. Then, in a protracted public tackle on April 8, he straight named Washington as a first-rate instigator within the regime-change conspiracy, accusing the U.S. of bribing his political allies with tens of tens of millions of {dollars} to abandon his coalition. He described the observe as “open horse buying and selling” and the “promoting of lawmakers like goats and sheep.”

Khan singled out Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu because the mastermind of the operation. “It was an official assembly between Donald Lu and our ambassador, with notetakers,” he mentioned, sharing a diplomatic cable from Pakistani Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed, wherein he claimed Lu had basically threatened his nation with a coup if it didn’t instantly change course. In distinction, if Khan have been deposed, “all will probably be forgiven” and Pakistan might return to its standing as a well-liked U.S. ally. Khan then invited a number of journalists, members of his cupboard, and safety brokers to view the doc. Nevertheless, the Islamabad Excessive Court docket instantly blocked the general public dissemination of the cable on the grounds that Khan could be breaking his secrecy oath.

The ousted prime minister has not quietly accepted his destiny. Quite the opposite, he’s organizing a sequence of avenue demonstrations which have drawn large crowds. “I would like all our individuals to come back, as Pakistan was created as an impartial, sovereign state, not as a puppet state of international powers,” he mentioned of a rally within the northwestern metropolis of Peshawar, his first look after, in his personal phrases, “being eliminated by way of a foreign-instigated regime change.” Khan and his PTI Occasion are calling for a right away electoral showdown, apparently assured of their means to win. “Let the individuals determine, by way of honest and free elections, whom they need as their prime minister,” he demanded.

Imran Khan Coup

Supporters of Imran Khan rally to sentence his ouster in Karachi on April 10, 2022. Fareed Khan | AP

Many, each inside and outdoors Pakistan, seem satisfied that the US is behind his downfall. Investigative journalist Ben Norton advised MintPress Information:

That is an unbelievable, blatant act of meddling by the U.S. authorities. In fact, anybody who is aware of the essential historical past of the U.S. is aware of that it has organized coups and impeachments and shade revolutions world wide for a lot of many years, however this was just about carried out in broad daylight!”

The US has categorically denied any involvement. “Let me simply say very bluntly there may be completely no reality to those allegations. In fact, we proceed to comply with these developments, and we respect and help Pakistan’s constitutional course of and rule of legislation. However once more, these allegations are completely not true,” State Division spokesperson Jalina Porter mentioned at a press convention final week.

Others inside Pakistan reject the concept this was a coup in any respect. Tooba Syed, an activist and a pacesetter of the Awami Employees Occasion, mentioned that this was the “first time in Pakistan {that a} prime minister has been constitutionally faraway from his place… It has normally been carried out by navy intervention. It’s undoubtedly step ahead by way of democracy in Pakistan.”


Beggars can’t be choosers

Regardless of the official denials, there may be some proof that the US could have performed a job within the proceedings. First Lu, the person on the heart of the affair, has stored comparatively silent. However when Indian newspaper The Hindustan Occasions straight requested him to substantiate or deny the cable’s authenticity, giving him a possibility to clean his arms of accountability, Lu responded just by saying, “We’re following developments in Pakistan and we respect and help Pakistan’s constitutional course of and the rule of legislation” – a solution that’s removed from a denial and might be interpreted as giving his blessing to proceedings.

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Maybe much more damning have been remarks made by new Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Responding to allegations that opposition events, together with his Pakistan Muslim League (N), have been performing on behalf of Washington in alternate for higher diplomatic and financial ties, Sharif appeared to agree. “Beggars can’t be choosers, please perceive,” he mentioned. “Now we have to feed our nation […] now we have to ship our kids to highschool; we will’t battle with somebody, can’t increase slogans towards others,” he added.

Donald Lu meeting Pakistan

US State Dept official Donald Lu, second from proper, meets with Pakistan’s Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, left, on October 15, 2021

For its half, the U.S. authorities instantly endorsed Sharif. Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated the brand new prime minister on his election, thereby firmly putting Washington on one aspect of this political battle.

Additionally of word has been the response of anti-Khan diplomats inside Pakistan’s international providers. Talking on situation of anonymity to Daybreak, an English-language newspaper based by the Pakistan Muslim League, a number of diplomats harshly criticized Khan for having “skewered the precept of safe and confidential communications.” “The implications of this ‘cablegate’ will go nicely past what’s being mentioned now, because it might harm delicate relationships and make open exchanges tougher,” mentioned one diplomat. One other foreign-service official lamented that, prior to now, “we didn’t pull international coverage controversies into home politics.” Nevertheless, it appeared, these days have been gone.

But none of them challenged the veracity of Khan’s cable. Subsequently, the objection from oppositional figures inside the federal government seems to be that Khan was breaking protocol and publicizing secret info, somewhat than the data being false.


Why would the US need Khan gone?

Pakistan has, traditionally, had an in depth relationship with the US, particularly militarily. Between 2002 and 2018, the U.S. gave $33 billion value of help to Pakistan, of which greater than $14 billion was navy support. Its armed forces are stocked with one of the best American gear and its officers are skilled in the US.

Pakistan was additionally a key participant within the U.S. occupation of neighboring Afghanistan, with successive administrations permitting the U.S. navy to conduct operations from its territory. The outcome was a humanitarian catastrophe for the nation; an estimated 83,000 Pakistanis misplaced their lives as a consequence of the Struggle on Terror.

Khan, who had lengthy opposed U.S. actions within the area, sharply decreased the nation’s involvement within the warfare. “There isn’t any approach we’re going to permit any bases, any form of motion from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Completely not,” he advised an interviewer from Axios final yr. He additionally started to extend navy purchases from and cooperation with China, a call that angered lots of his military’s prime brass.

Khan’s administration was not the primary to maneuver towards Beijing, however he definitely continued to construct ties with China. Chief amongst these connections is the brand new China-Pakistan Financial Hall, a $62 billion infrastructure community that hyperlinks the 2 international locations and helps increase commerce worldwide. Usually described as a Chinese language Marshall Plan, tasks below building embody a 700-mile motorway between Karachi and Lahore in addition to an unlimited community of roads and high-speed rail hyperlinks that criss-cross the nation and join main Pakistani cities with the buying and selling hub of Kashgar within the far west of China.


Pakistan performs a number one position in China’s Belt-and-Street Initiative, due to the Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. The brand new port is already a significant buying and selling hub and is within the technique of being vastly expanded. This course of is about to make it probably the most necessary areas for world commerce. Pakistan will quickly be linked to western China by way of rail, creating a brand new Silk Street and a land route from East to West Asia, slicing supply instances and permitting Chinese language ships to keep away from the Straits of Malacca and the more and more contested South China Sea.

An emblem of the improved relations between the 2 nations emerged earlier this yr when Khan defied Western orders to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics and attended the opening ceremony. Khan has lauded China’s anti-poverty initiatives and been described because the nation’s new “greatest good friend” on the worldwide stage.

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The ousted prime minister additionally provoked Washington’s ire by pursuing cordial relations with Russia. Pakistan refused to sentence Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not to mention assist the U.S. impose sanctions on Moscow. Certainly, by probability, Khan was in Moscow on February 24, negotiating an expansive financial deal whereby Pakistan agreed to buy Russian fuel and import 2 million tons of grain. The U.S. authorities straight communicated its displeasure with Khan over his resolution to be the primary Pakistani chief in over 20 years to go to Moscow.

On a regional stage, the Khan administration has additionally taken steps which have angered the world’s sole superpower. Khan has tried to extend shut bilateral collaboration to enhance commerce and transport hyperlinks with Iran, describing their 517-mile border as a frontier of “peace and friendship” and expressing his happiness on the “optimistic momentum in brotherly relations between the 2 international locations.” In 2019, he additionally tried to dealer peace negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, an settlement that would have introduced significantly extra peace to the Center East. The Trump administration vehemently opposed these negotiations, scuppering them weeks later by assassinating Iranian Basic Qassem Soleimani.

Khan condemned the U.S. sanctions on Iran and known as for his or her removing. “It is extremely unjust they’re coping with such a big [COVID] outbreak on one aspect, and on the opposite, they’re going through worldwide sanctions,” he mentioned in 2020.

Whereas he has supported Iran, he has additionally publically opposed most of the insurance policies of key U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel. Khan efficiently campaigned towards Pakistani involvement within the Saudi-led warfare on Yemen, whereas he has constantly championed Palestinian rights and demanded the Muslim world do extra to assist them. “A day will come when Palestinians will get their very own nation, a simply settlement, and they’re going to be capable to stay as equal residents,” he mentioned final yr, evaluating their battle to that of the worldwide marketing campaign towards Apartheid South Africa. In the meantime, he has additionally publicly supported imprisoned writer Julian Assange.



Removed from a radical

These types of coverage strikes would, if he have been a Western politician, mark Khan out as a radical anti-imperialist and sure politically far-left. But the PTI celebration has ruled on a way more average agenda, centered round obscure messages of anti-corruption and reform.

In 2018, Khan inherited an economic system that was in shambles and shortly dropped lots of his extra formidable financial and social targets. Certainly, the PTI quickly entered into negotiations with the Worldwide Financial Fund (IMF) for a multi-billion greenback bailout. As common, the Fund demanded a variety of aggressive austerity measures that meant deep cuts to social safety and public providers. As inflation grew, wage will increase have been halted and subsidies on utilities have been decreased.

On prime of all this, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Pakistan onerous. A nationwide lockdown killed any probability of an financial restoration and precipitated widespread misery, notably among the many working lessons. Incomes fell by 42% and unemployment rose by 34%, with the momentary shutdown completely shuttering many companies.

Many commentators have been left unimpressed with the previous nationwide cricket captain’s document as prime minister. Lahore-born historian and author Tariq Ali is considered one of them. Commenting on Khan’s ouster, Ali requested:

Has the PTI authorities achieved something? I’d say no. It has confronted robust financial issues. It’s gone to the IMF. All that’s true. But it surely had no imaginative and prescient in any respect, similar to the opposite political events within the nation. So it grew to become like them. And all the guarantees of modernizing Pakistan, altering it perpetually, amounted to nothing.”


The facility of the navy

Additionally unimpressed with Khan and his politics has been the highly effective Pakistani navy. Whereas he was perceived as being near the Military in 2018, in latest weeks, it has turn into clear that the navy has turned on Khan. Throughout a uncommon press convention, Military spokesman Main Basic Babar Iftikhar categorically rejected Khan’s claims of a foreign-backed coup. “The phrases used are in entrance of you … as I mentioned … the phrases used are clear. Is there any phrase similar to conspiracy utilized in it? I feel not,” he mentioned. Iftikhar additionally criticized Khan’s journey to Russia as “very embarrassing.”

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Thus, whereas the Pakistani public might need accepted the nation’s shift in the direction of China and Russia, the navy definitely has not. Lots of the prime generals have shut ties to the US, having been skilled and commonly touring there for instruction. The totally Westernized navy institution is much much less eager to collaborate with their Chinese language counterparts, and would a lot somewhat spend months within the U.S. than in China, the place they don’t communicate the language or perceive the tradition. Moreover, as Pakistani journalist Waqas Ahmed famous, the Pakistani navy is nearly completely outfitted with U.S. weaponry and doesn’t recognize their new Chinese language know-how, which they understand as inferior.

Consequently, it seems clear that the navy performed a decisive position in Khan’s ouster. As Ahmed mentioned, “So if their [the anti-Khan opposition’s] declare was that every one these events joined the PTI on the desires of the navy, on whose needs did they go away?”

US Pakistan miltiary

Brad Cooper, head of US Naval Central Command, meets with Amjad Niazi, the top of Pakistan’s Navy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 6, 2022. Picture | DVIDS

Few in Pakistan contest that the Military holds final energy. For a lot of its post-independence historical past, the nation has been straight dominated as a navy dictatorship. There have been a number of profitable navy coups, together with in 1953-1954, 1958, 1977, and 1999. Certainly, none of Pakistan’s 29 prime ministers has ever completed a full time period in workplace.

A few of these coups have been carried out in coordination with Washington. A declassified CIA doc from 1975 mentioned the opportunity of eradicating Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Much like Khan, Bhutto publicly alleged that the CIA was behind his 1977 ouster, and acted due to his robust help of the nation’s non-aligned place, his rejection of the Vietnam Struggle, his pursuit of nuclear weapons, and his cordial relationship with China. Bhutto was executed two years later.

In newer instances, the navy and intelligence providers have labored intently with the U.S. authorities, serving to them of their controversial spy marketing campaign to trace down Osama Bin Laden, and permitting the nation for use as a base to assault Afghanistan.


A harmful close to miss

The Pakistani navy is assumed to possess round 165 nuclear warheads. The nation’s nuclear standing got here into sharp reduction simply because the marketing campaign to oust Khan was heating up. Whereas the world was concentrating on Ukraine, a doubtlessly much more lethal incident occurred when India mistakenly fired a BrahMos cruise missile – the type it makes use of to ship its nuclear warheads – into Pakistan. In the middle of routine upkeep, the rocket was by chance launched. India didn’t instantly inform its neighbor of its mistake.

Confronted with what appeared to be a nuclear assault, the Khan administration had no various minutes to determine methods to reply. One place was to launch Pakistan’s whole nuclear arsenal again at India – an motion that would have spelled the top of organized human life worldwide. In the long run, they determined to easily let themselves be hit. Fortuitously, their wager that this was a horrible mistake proved appropriate, and the missile fell in a rural space of Punjab, killing nobody.

“If our air pressure had not picked it up nicely inside India, there might have been an unintentional response to this unintentional launch. Do individuals notice the implications and penalties of that? That could be very critical,” mentioned Pakistan’s Overseas Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who, final week, was deposed together with Khan. “I’m not attempting to be dramatic about it however it’s a real looking evaluation… I’m shocked that the media and the world have didn’t really feel this tremor,” he added.


Regardless of official U.S. denials, circumstantial proof means that Washington might need had at the least a guiding hand within the removing of Imran Khan from energy. From its fast endorsement of recent Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, whose off-the-cuff feedback more-or-less admitted its involvement, it seems that the U.S. at very least gave its tacit blessing to the transfer to topple Khan. He, subsequently, joins the lengthy listing of deposed prime ministers and underscores the fact that, in Pakistan, whoever the individuals elect, the U.S.-backed navy is at all times in cost.

Function picture | Supporters of Imran Khan attend a rally to protest his ouster in Peshawar, Pakistan, April 13, 2022. Muhammad Sajjad | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Employees Author for MintPress Information. After finishing his PhD in 2017 he printed two books: Unhealthy Information From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Faux Information and Misreporting and Propaganda within the Data Age: Nonetheless Manufacturing Consent, in addition to a quantity of tutorial articles. He has additionally contributed to, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Journal, and Frequent Goals.