Imran Khan’s ‘Amar Bin Maroof’ jalsa was an anti climax to a poorly directed film. The Prime Minister’s speech, fraught with unsubstantiated claims, sounded trite and a repetition of what he has been saying during the past few weeks.
The embattled premier spoke about economic successes, Rekodik case, Ehsaas program, Sehat card and so on. He presented his vision for Riyasat-e-Madina yet again and made fun of opposition leaders. Many of the claims about economic ‘successes’ were preposterous, not least because Pakistan is suffering from high inflation, lacklustre export growth, rising fiscal deficit & staggering debt. Under his watch, Pakistan’s external debt has doubled to an astonishing 85.6 billion US dollars.
No surprise was the big surprise
Prior to the Jalsa, many a commentator and cyber commandos had argued that a ground breaking surprise announcement will be made by PM Khan. There was much speculation that he might sack a high ranked General or call an early election. But none of that transpired. Instead, the big surprise of the evening was that there was no surprise.
Towards the end of his speech, Imran waved a letter in Zulfikar Bhutto style claiming the document contained damning proof of an international conspiracy against his government. PM Khan refused to share the letter with public and media in the national interest.
That a sitting prime minister of a nuclear state was threatened by a foreign power is simply laughable. Anyone privy to the workings of international affairs maintains that it is utterly bizzare to believe the Prime Minister’s claim on face value. It is equally important to note that warning laden diplomatic messages are mostly conveyed indirectly and are never documented in writing.
Foreign conspiracy unfounded
Given the ongoing heated political situation, it has been argued that Imran Khan was recipient of a threatening letter just as Zulfikar Bhutto claimed in 1977 during heightened opposition onslaught.
There are obvious and key differences here. First, the letter received by Zulfikar Bhutto by United States Secretary of state, Cyrus Vance propagated ‘quiet talks’ between Pakistan and United States to resolve differences, rather than an open threat. Second, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made the letter public, the United States embassy not only verified the existence of such a letter but also clarified the reason behind it. None of those details have been revealed or verified in this situation. Lastly,Imran Khan is no Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. That is not to say that Bhutto’s ouster by Pakistan National Alliance was sponsored by western or foreign funding. To date, there is no concrete evidence of that. The reason why Imran is no Bhutto is because of the vastly different situation in the arena of international affairs.
Back in 1977, Bhutto argued that a complex web of international conspiracy was underway to oust him for failing to support the U.S. war in Vietnam and for supporting the Arab cause against Israel. This had happened in the backdrop of United States’ Ford administration having blocked France’s plan to sell Pakistan a nuclear reprocessing plant last year. To put it in simpler terms, Pakistan’s foreign policy was at odds with American interests during peak of Cold War. Bhutto had built foreign conspiracy narrative in the midst of serious diplomatic tensions between Pak-US, so much so that Henry Kissinger had visited in 1976 to resolve matters.
The current situation is nothing similar to one Bhutto faced. For starters, Pakistan does not occupy the same strategic status it did during Cold War to warrant a regime change. More importantly, Imran Khan’s claims of pursuing a robust, independent and anti western foreign policy are dumbfounded. On the contrary, Pakistan’s military establishment has afforded every possible assistance to the US in negotiations with the Taliban. After the US pullout from the region, Pakistan is no longer central to the US policy in the region. Furthermore, the PTI government, unlike the Bhutto regime, has been far more receptive to recognising Israel than any government in history. Lastly, much has been made of Imran’s visit to Russia. That visit was undertaken at the expense of Pakistan’s strategic interests precisely so that the Prime Minister could use it as pretext for a western conspiracy.
People like to believe in conspiracy theories in the land of the pure. Truth of the matter is that the PM has had a serious threat of vote of no confidence since the turn of the year. Imran, 69, has been under severe psychological strain for nearly three months, as a result of opposition’s onslaught and the neutrality of the establishment. PM Khan is simply maneuvering the situation as he finds himself in a cornered situation. The claims of a threatening letter and ‘foreign conspiracy’ are desperate tactics to capitalise on the age old anti western sentiment that dominates Pakistan’s popular discourse.