The recent shift in Pakistan’s political scenario is undoubtedly an extraordinary event, which has shaken the whole nation along with the domestic and global stakeholders of Pakistan’s political system. While on one hand, the removal of the former premier Imran Khan through a “no-confidence motion” has been considered and claimed as a “foreign conspiracy” by the former premier and his party, on the other hand, the opposition parties are calling it a standard procedure of shifting government in accordance with the 1973′ Constitution of Pakistan. In this regard, a wide polarization can be vividly seen among Pakistan’s political fraternity and the nation on the current situation, as approximately 70% of the nation comes out in protest to support the removal of the former premier, in Pakistan and throughout the world in recent days. The problem began when the former premier waved a white folded paper at a public rally in Islamabad’s Parade Ground on March 27, 2022, declaring it a “threat letter” and claiming that a “foreign conspiracy” was afoot to remove him from power, touting the opposition’s “no-confidence motion” against him as a testimony of “foreign-funded move” to topple his government. “With the help of foreign money, there is an attempt being made to change the government. The money has come from abroad and our own people are being used. Most of them unknowingly, but some are using foreign money intentionally against us”, the former premier said in his address. “If anyone suspected this letter, I am inviting them to come and see the letter off the record”, he added. Although it was an act of accusing the recognized political opposition of treason and is a matter of no minor consequence, however, according to the reports circulated in the Pakistani media after the former premier’s claim, the factor of “foreign conspiracy” can somehow be justified.
Citing the diplomatic and official sources, the Pakistani media sources reported that it was basically a “diplomatic cable” that was sent by Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the United States Asad Majeed Khan, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad probably on March 7, 2022, or March 8, 2022, after his meeting with the US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary Lesslie Clay Viguerie. “Diplomatic cable”, also known as “diplomatic telegram (DipTel)” or “embassy cable” is a confidential text-based message exchanged between a diplomatic mission, like an embassy or a consulate, and the foreign ministry of its parent country. According to the sources, the meeting took place on March 7, 2022, at a farewell lunch, at the residence of Asad Majeed Khan in Washington. This meeting was also attended by the note-takers from both sides and the “diplomatic cable” that Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan later sent to Islamabad was basically based on the notes taken by the note-taker from Pakistan Embassy in Washington. It is important to note that the meeting was held less than two weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, therefore, many political analysts think that the conversation was dominated by the Russian invasion. The sources said that the US side expressed its “disappointment” over Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow, on the day Russia invaded Ukraine. Donald Lu explained in the conversation how the Russian invasion had angered the entire American nation and explained why they thought Prime Minister Imran Khan should have postponed his visit. He further hinted that “Washington believes the final decision to go ahead with the visit despite the invasion was that of the Prime Minister Imran Khan, although some Pakistani officials had suggested postponing it”.
However, Asad Majeed Khan, according to the sources, argued that “it was a collective decision and Pakistan had been trying for a Moscow visit for years, so when the invitation came, it was impossible for Pakistan to turn it down or postpone it”. In response, Donald Lu argued that “Islamabad should have considered Washington’s sensitiveness on this issue before going ahead with the visit”. The sources said that the conversation then drifted to the current political scenario in Pakistan, about which Donald Lu pointed out that “Washington is keenly observing the political situation in Pakistan and the outcome of “no-confidence motion” against the Prime Minister Imran Khan would impact the US-Pakistan relations”. According to the sources, Donald Lu’s arguments were “alarming and far from routine”, but he did not threaten a regime change directly and no one attending the meeting felt that the US is hatching a conspiracy to topple the government of the former premier. “No, there is no conspiracy. Nobody got that impression, but the Americans say that the outcome of the “no-confidence motion” against Prime Minister Imran Khan will impact the bilateral ties between the US and Pakistan, which can be interpreted either way”, the sources added. The political analysts think that basically, Donald Lu reflected what the Biden administration feels and thinks but it triggered certain reactions that impacted the domestic political situation in Pakistan. The source claimed that the Defense Attaché of Pakistan was also present in the meeting, therefore, his presence and his earlier engagement with US officials on the Russo-Ukrainian conflict clearly reflect, why Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s remarks on the Russo-Ukrainian war marked a significant departure from the former premier’s policies on this issue. Addressing a seminar in Islamabad on April 2, 2022, General Bajwa slammed the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling for an immediate cessation of what he described as a “huge tragedy inflicted on a smaller country”.
On the other hand, the opposition parties, on the day the former premier waved the white folded paper, ruled out the existence and authenticity of any “foreign conspiracy” and demanded the former premier to public the contents of “threat letter”, if any. Responding to it, the former premier tabled the “diplomatic cable” before the federal cabinet and briefed the cabinet members about it in a cabinet meeting in Islamabad on March 30, 2022. He told the cabinet members that “I also took the heads of national security agencies into confidence on this issue. A global conspiracy has been hatched against me in the shape of “no-confidence motion” and I will show this “threat letter” to every member of the coalition parties”. He further added, “as the opposition parties are calling it a drama, I will show this “threat letter” to the senior journalists today”. According to the sources, in the “diplomatic cable”, it was clearly stated that “everything would be forgiven if the “no-confidence motion” against Prime Minister Imran Khan succeeds, but its failure would entail serious consequences for Pakistan”. The “diplomatic cable” was then sealed under the Official Secret Act. Later that day, the former premier unveiled the excerpts of the “diplomatic cable” before the senior journalists and told the journalists that an in-camera session of the parliament will be called soon to discuss the matter.
On March 31, 2022, the former premier chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), which is the highest forum for coordination on security issues. Federal ministers, chairman of joint chiefs of staff committee, services chiefs, national security adviser, and senior government officials were among the attendees. The opposition parties were also invited to the meeting but they refused to attend the meeting. According to the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) regarding this meeting, “the National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf briefed the committee about the “formal communication of a senior official of a foreign country” with Pakistan’s Ambassador in that country in a formal meeting, which was subsequently conveyed through the “diplomatic cable”. The committee expressed grave concern at the communication, terming the language used by the foreign official as undiplomatic”, the statement said, adding that “the meeting concluded that it amounted to blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan by the country in question. The interference is unacceptable under any circumstances, therefore, the committee decided that Pakistan will issue a strong démarche to the country in question, both in Islamabad and in the country’s capital, through proper channel in keeping with diplomatic norms”. It is important for the readers to know that in diplomacy, a démarche is a protest, move, countermove, maneuver, or a formal diplomatic representation of the official position, views, or wishes, which is sent to a foreign government. However, in this regard, some sources claimed that during the meeting, no solid evidence was furnished by the government before the committee, which reflected a “foreign conspiracy”. It was a regular “diplomatic cable” and the committee did not ratify any kind of treason against the country.
Later that day, in a televised address, the former premier emphasized his claims of “foreign conspiracy” and said that a foreign country is attempting to remove him over the independent foreign policy decisions made by him. He named the United States to be behind the conspiracy. In an apparent slip of the tongue, he said, “on March 8 or before that on March 7, the US sent us a… not the US but a foreign country sent us a message. The reason why I am talking about this, is for an independent country to receive such a message, is against me and the country. He added, “It stated that if the “no-confidence motion” is passed, Pakistan will be forgiven, if not, there will be consequences”. However, the US State Department and White House together spurned the former premier’s allegation in which he had held foreign powers responsible for attempting to topple his government. Soon after the televised address of the former premier, the White House Communications Director Katherine Joan Bedingfield categorically rejected his allegations that the US government is trying to remove him from power. During a regular press briefing, she said, “absolutely no truth to that allegation”. On the same day, Ned Price, the Spokesman for the US Department of State said, “we are closely following developments in Pakistan, and we respect, we support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law. But when it comes to those allegations, there is no truth to them”. On April 1, 2022, Jalina Porter, the Principal Deputy Spokeswoman for the US Department of State said that “Let me just say very bluntly, there is absolutely no truth to these allegations”. She was responding to a question on the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s allegations regarding the US encouraging the “no-confidence motion” against his government. She further added, “of course, we continue to follow these developments, and we respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and rule of law. But again, these allegations are absolutely not true”. Moreover, on April 14, 2022, the media and public relations wing of the Pakistan Army – the ISPR Pakistan also dismissed the allegations of the former premier regarding the US’ conspiracy, although it acknowledged that Washington had used language in the lunch meeting that amounted to interference in Pakistani affairs. The ISPR Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar said that the National Security Council’s meeting on this issue expressed “grave concern” at the communication from Washington, but did not use the word “conspiracy”.
Whatsoever, the current political scenario of the country is in front of the whole nation. The government of the former premier Imran Khan is abolished on April 10, 2022, through a “no-confidence motion”. How much is the truth behind the former premier’s claim of “foreign conspiracy”, the time will prove it very soon but as a result of toppling his government, extreme anger can be seen in the nation against the establishment, which can be determined from the former premier’s two massive rallies in Peshawar and Karachi, on April 13, 2022, and April 16, 2022, respectively. Another massive rally is expected in Lahore on April 21, 2022. Undoubtedly, the former premier and his party is going through a tough ordeal, however, the establishment is also under fire due to the strong criticism by a majority of the nation. The nation is accusing the establishment of supporting the opposition parties on the “no-confidence motion”, which led to the recent regime change in the country. Here, one point is notable that in his address in Karachi on April 16, 2022, the former premier openly offered and insisted on the setup of a “Judicial Commission” and demanded a transparent inquiry of his claim of “foreign conspiracy” against his government. Now, if in case, the “Judicial Commission” is formed and the former premier’s claim of “foreign conspiracy” is proven to be true in the future, the consequences can be imagined. First, the legitimacy of the “no-confidence motion” by the opposition parties followed by the newly elected government of the Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif will be lost, and secondly, the establishment shall be answerable for its character in the court of nation. What will be the future political scenario of Pakistan, we have to wait for it because any prediction in this regard shall be merely a hypothesis.
Author: Waqar Ahmad Khan
The Author is a columnist, whose columns are regularly published in English and Urdu on different news websites. The author mostly writes on contemporary affairs, international and national politics, history, social issues, and Islam.