Imran Khan has lost the confidence of a majority of Parliamentarians and will be constitutionally voted out of prime ministerial office on April 3rd, 2022, by a thumping majority. Indeed, even if he plays foul by getting the Speaker of the National Assembly or President of Pakistan to extend his political lease of life a bit by twisting procedures, he won’t last much longer. The people are mad at him for making their lives miserable. The opposition is united in exacting revenge for four years of brutalization. The Miltablishment wants to disown the “same-page” narrative and redeem its credibility by letting him fend for himself. The bruised and battered media is in an unforgiving mood. And the superior courts sense the national mood and won’t bail him out any more.
Imran Khan should take a moral and principled position and resign so that the system can transfer power smoothly. The country craves certainty and stability.
But he says he will fight to the bitter end. As a last ditch effort, he has brandished a “letter” from the outgoing Pakistan Ambassador to Washington, Asad Khan, to the Pakistan Foreign Office alleging that the US is “conspiring” to oust the PTI government. The letter’s disclosure at this time is aimed at persuading Pakistanis, Parliamentarians and the Miltablishment to stand with him and resist the “conspiracy” in which the Opposition has allegedly sold out Pakistan.
Imran Khan’s position on the “letter” has been deliberately ambiguous and fluid. At first he waved it dramatically in front of a charged PTI crowd, suggesting it was a formal and deadly threat by a foreign power against his government. Then he confessed that it was an internal cable from the Pakistan Ambassador in Washington based on his talks with a senior American official. Later, he revealed he had shared it with key national security stakeholders and his cabinet. Belatedly, he also agreed to brief parliament “in camera”. But he refuses to order any investigation into how and why the letter came into being or the authenticity of its content.
Thus far, however, his “conspiracy” story has been rejected by all the stakeholders. The NSC has ordered no more than a “demarche” to the US which has officially denied any threats. Indeed, the demand for an investigation is growing because suspicions persist about the terms and conditions behind the writing of this letter. It mysteriously arrived on the 7th March, on the eve of the lodging of the Vote of No-Confidence (VONC) on March 8th by the Opposition, has references to it in the text, and is written by an outgoing Pakistan Ambassador to Washington, Asad Khan, who returned to Islamabad but departed on March 27 to assume charge of the Pakistan Embassy in Brussels a day before the VONC resolution was moved in Parliament on March 28 so that he would not be available for comment or evidence in Islamabad.
A common belief is that Asad Khan was leaned upon by the government, via the Foreign Office. to write such a letter in exchange for the posting in Brussels. That is why the government is refusing to order an investigation into Lettergate. True or not, what is certain is that the Ambassador in Brussels will be recalled by the next government in due course to explain what actually transpired.
A host of serious reservations exist. Why did the PM sit on the letter for weeks and not take action earlier? Why did the Foreign Minister invite a senior American official to participate in the OIC moot in Islamabad and publicly express satisfaction in his meetings with the official if all was not well? Why did the PM keep changing his story about the need to keep it secret and not share it with the national security establishment and parliament if it was such a serious threat? Why should any routine exchange of views between two diplomats be flagged as an existential threat to Pakistan, least of all when it merely reflects the impressionistic feedback of a Pakistani official? What drastic decision by Imran Khan against core American interests has antagonized President Joe Biden to the point of instigating regime change in Pakistan?
Meanwhile, Imran Khan’s desperate follies have put Pakistan in a terribly precarious diplomatic situation. Relations with the Western powers, especially the United States and its Middle-Eastern allies, with whom we predominantly trade in goods and services and whose aid and loans we seek, have hit rock bottom. With the economy on lifeline support from precisely these powers, Imran Khan’s legacy will be a devastating one for the next government. It’s as if he has deliberately planted a time bomb for the next government to diffuse at great risk.
Now Imran Khan has sought a last minute “NRO” from the very Opposition he despises. He wants the Opposition to withdraw the VONC in exchange for announcing general elections in August. This “deal” was transmitted via the Miltablishment to Opposition Big-Wigs. And, as expected, it was been roundly rejected. Nonetheless, PTI propagandists are burning the midnight oil selling it as a “done deal” to lure PTI allies and dissidents back into the fold.
He is also threatening to call a big rally in front of Parliament on April 2nd, the eve of the VONC on April 3rd. The idea again is to threaten his opponents and pressure the Miltablishment, Courts and dissidents to stand with him. Meanwhile, his Social Media Department is busy bombarding GHQ with statements of support for Imran Khan from ex-servicemen.
In a desperate attempt to escape his fate, Imran Khan reached out to the nation on Thursday night. But is was all in vain. It was a rambling, repetitive, dull speech that exposed his fatal flaws rather than win any brownie points for him. In the end he looked like an angry, frustrated, delusional man who knows the end is nigh but is struggling to deny it. Under the circumstances, Imran Khan would do himself and Pakistan a favour by retreating to the opposition benches and live to fight another day.