(Lt Col Rizwan Ahmed, TI(M), (R) – Geopolitical Analyst) 25th April 2022
Introduction. US-Pakistan diplomatic history is vividly replete with roller coaster rides that date back to Pakistan’s independence in 1947. Ever since, there has been a blatant series of interventionist approaches observed in the past: Gen. Ayub Khan’s US influenced SEATO and CENTO era, Gen. Zia’s judicial murder case of Bhutto, and Charlie Wilsons’s Afghan war, and Gen. Musharraf’s ‘War on Terror’ participation. Consequently, the accumulated fallout of earlier interventions coupled with overt and coverts conspiracies are still bleeding all across Pakistan’s western borders even to date. However, this paper shall precisely carry out the factual analysis of core potential reasons leading to Imran Khans’ fall due to tainted no-confidence move and the emergence of popular belief of the US-sponsored conspiracy attempt, which is well accepted and become a reason for mass public protest by Imran Khans’ organic supporters with heavy mandate comprising a critical mass of the nation from middle to upper-middle class of urban, semi-urban profile literate people and active social media users. Hence, it is prudent to analyze this fall, while staying specifically focused on the Pakistan-US relationship in the last two-plus years from June 2019, after the highly successful World Cup Victory of the Trump Era to Bidens’ Imported Government conspiracy in April 2022.
The series of incidents between two US presidents were either reluctantly ignored and/or underestimated by Imran Khan or else Imran Khan was deliberately kept uninformed by the concerned quarters, either way, it is the responsibility of the incumbent in a chair, the sportsman celebrity turned Prime Minister to secure own vulnerabilities against all such odds. As earlier stated, historically there is a very high risk associated with the right-wing nationalist ideology based on the premise that an individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group loyalties and the nation should govern itself, free from outside interference and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power followed by populist believes that presents the people as a morally good force and contrasts them against the elite, who are portrayed as corrupt and self-serving. The consequential impact of these right-wing ‘Nationalist and Populist’ ideologies on Imran Khans’ stay in and out of office is explored here.
However, the key focus is to identify the core issues of cold diplomacy between the seasoned US politician Joseph Biden having forty-four years of active political experience, who came into power as 46th President of the United States of America, having earlier served for eight years as Vice President of United States from 2009-17 under President Barak Obama and for thirty-six years of US Senator services starting from 1973 to 2009 versus the Imran Khan’s having short legacy of over three and a half years of tenure as Prime Minister of Pakistan. The core issues are listed below in ascending chronological order:
Successful Visits to the US. In July 2019, It was undoubtedly a historic visit by any democratic leader from Pakistan in past decades, which was claimed as a ‘World Cup Victory’ by Imran Khan. The major successful achievements can be summarized as; Firstly, the US identified Pakistan’s key role in the long outstanding war on terror in Afghanistan and the urgency of US forces to exit negotiations talks with the Taliban. Secondly, the unexpected achievement that Imran Khan was able to extract from Trump was the discussion of the Kashmir crisis and their willingness to mediate between India and Pakistan. Although, the revocation of the special status of Kashmir through abrogation of Articles 370 and 31 by India, came just next to Imran Khans’ US visit nullifying any positive impact or outcome of Trump’s mediation mantra. However, in overall terms, Imran Khan got along with Trump very well on a personal level and that is the point of time, which set the slippery stage for Imran Khan under his false euphoria and whimsical believe over his leadership personality as ‘too big to fail’!
Taliban – US Deal, Turned Disaster. In February 2020, The official agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan was signed in Doha Qatar, between the United States of America and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban. The agreement was signed under Trump Administration and it culminated in August 2021 with severely colossal negative repercussions for the Biden Administration, defying any significant achievement(s) that can be leveraged by Imran Khan or Pakistan for its supporting role in the Afghan war. This was a historic US military disaster that dented Mr. Biden’s leadership credibility right during the initial year of his Presidentship after his assumption of office in January 2021. The exit can be termed as an unprecedented jolt in the history of Mr. Biden’s forty-four years of political leadership career as former Vice President and Senator. Hence, India’s continued aggression at Kashmir after the abrogation of articles and revocation of special status and the horrendous exodus of US forces out of the Afghan war, both combined, devastated the fruits of any diplomatic gains achieved by Imran Khans during his last visit to the US.
Leaders’ Summit on Climate. In April 2021, The very first shock to Imran Khan from Biden came in the form of not receiving a major invite even when Pakistan was fulfilling the major requirements for the established criteria. After fulfilling the promise to bring America back into the Paris Agreement, President Biden convened 40 world leaders in a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate in April 2021 to rally the world in tackling the climate crisis and meeting the demands of science. Ironically, Mr. Imran Khan issued the guest invite and was kept out of the world’s forty leaders list, despite the fact that Indian and Bangladeshi leaders received the invitations to attend the conference and despite the fact that Pakistan’s Ten Billion Tree Tsunami, project duly acknowledged and supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – sets out to plant ten billion trees by 2023, was in progress.
“ABSOLUTELY NOT” to US Military Bases. In June 2021, comes the Imran Khan’s famous ‘ABSOLUTELY NOT’ saga, in an interview reply to a young political journalist Jonathan Swan, during the program that primarily features interviews with global political figures and is a co-production of Axios Media and HBO Documentary Films. Besides, this Imran made several comments against the US for not acknowledging Pakistan’s crucial role in the Afghan is war and the efforts leading to Taliban negotiations for US withdrawal. Whereas, Jonathan Swan is a highly ambitious thirty-five years old, Australian Jewish, aspirant of US nationality. It is pertinent to highlight that Jonathan is not an official representative of the US Military, CIA, or State Department. Instead, he is known for exposing Trump to win an Emmy award in 2021, for his widely acclaimed interview with Donald Trump in August 2020, in which he bluntly fact-checked the president’s misleading statements when he doggedly but politely questioned the US president about his response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He is also alleged in a controversy where Axios Media had paid a public relations firm to improve its reputation by lobbying for changes to the Wikipedia articles on Axios and Jonathan Swan. Whereas, the pro-Imran people and media propagated this media interview reply as an official strategic refute to the US.
“Afghan’s Break Shackles of Slavery” Over US Withdrawal. In August 2021, while desperately looking forward to a call or any sort of positive response from the newly elected US President and unable to read the deteriorating state inside Afghanistan, Imran Khan once again went on to commit yet another diplomatic blunder by calling ‘Afghanistan Broke the Shackles of Slavery’, seeking global attention while referring to the emerging developments in Afghanistan during US withdrawal nightmare and where the Afghan Taliban were seizing immediate control against the spineless US-trained Afghan forces. The statement was nothing less than pouring salt over leaking wounds at a time when Biden was grilled brutally at US for a highly questionable and miserably failed exit strategy.
“Pakistan is Victim of US Ungratefulness” at UNGA. In September 2021, once again, Imran Khan in his continuing series of criticizing US policies currently under the Biden regime, went on to state that “Pakistan is a victim of US Ungratefulness” and spoke against the US Afghanistan war and labelled the US for abandoning Pakistan and Afghanistan, while addressing at United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, US. It can be termed as a strategic below to Biden from Imran Khan, especially when Biden was confronted with a bad decision of not to extend the US withdrawal cutoff date when the Taliban’s swiping capture of the country occurred while annihilating the US-trained Afghan forces with zero resistance, after losing billions dollars’ military hardware landing into the hands of Taliban and ISIL elements and when the senior military leadership testified that they advised Biden against early withdrawal leading to dire consequences. It’s obvious that any naive leader, from a minnow country like Pakistan, reminding the forty fours political professional and current US President Biden of his gross failures are likely to invite trouble and a logical backfire and it happened as expected.
Pakistan’s Spy Chief Makes Headlines. In September 2021, Pakistan’s intelligence agency’s crucial role in Afghanistan is undeniable since the Russian invasion (aka Charlie Wilson’s War) followed by US ‘War On Terror’. Hence, maybe in a bid to consolidate ISI’s effective role and to celebrate the Afghan Taliban victory against two decades of US-led coalition forces invasion, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency chief couldn’t resist popularity temptation and was spotted having cordial interactive sessions with Taliban leadership at Afghan capital. Whereas, based upon intelligence agencies’ institutional experiential learning curve of over four decades of the Afghan war, in no way it can be termed as an intelligent move, especially from the intelligence agencies’ typical modus operandi of operating while staying hidden behind the scenes and instead of becoming story headlines. Having already elaborated on the Biden’s bashing over the early Afghan withdrawal crisis, the Chief of ISI celebrating victory while sipping tea with the Taliban was another nail in the Biden’s coffin who haven’t died yet but had assumed the chair, recently.
“He (Biden) Is A Busy Person”. During the same month of September 2021, following the similar stance of persuading negative role of the US in Afghanistan, with almost eight months elapsed since Biden’s assumption of President office, Imran Khan once again went on to say, “He (Biden) is a busy person” in an interview to CNN anchor Becky Anderson. Needless, to elaborate that Imran Khan was consistently reminding global anchors who were asking about similar Pak-US relations aimed at the US President’s phone call, US Afghan policy failures and it even allowed Imran Khan to spitefully taunt Biden, for not paying any heed to Imran Khan.
US Secretary of State’s Ignorance. In October same year, the US Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visits Pakistan and didn’t meet Imran Khan before coming to Pakistan she visits India and said, in blunt terms about the new parameters of US-Pakistan relations, stressing Pakistan has no equivalence with Washington’s deepening ties to India. Before arriving in Pakistan, she visited India first and replied to a question in a public meeting event that, “Islamabad trip was for a very specific and narrow purpose, to talk about Afghanistan and the Taliban. We don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan, and we have no interest in returning to the days of hyphenated India-Pakistan, That’s not where we are. That’s not where we’re going to be.” Aon her arrival, she was taken head-on, by local media over her above statement(s) in India for which she gave reconciliatory answers. However, not meeting Imran Khan and putting the Afghan agenda on top and showing no interest in US-Pakistan broad-based strategic relationship talks was the writing on the wall.
Unfreeze the Afghan Assets. In November 2021, Imran Khan asked the US for unfreezing Billions of dollars, which were held frozen in the US Bank as Afghan Currency Reserves. Whereas, Joe Biden had already declared to use the funds to compensate victims of 9/11 affected families. Ironically, against returning money back to the state of Taliban ruled Afghanistan for much needed post-war zone reconstruction and rehabilitation purposes. Bidens’ gross insensitivity in linking the Currency Reserves after two decades of war on terror, with 9/11 victims, reflects the severity of political pain caused to Biden by of US-Afghan withdrawal failure.
Global Democracy Summit. In December 2021, Imran Khan regretted attending the Global Democracy Summit held online by the US, where 100 Global Leaders were invited including Pakistan, but China was the only major country that was left out. In a surprising move, Pakistan regretted attending the democracy summit with no plausible reasons that augmented the prevailing status quo of cold diplomatic relations.
China & Russia Visits. In February 2022, having consistently been ignored and rejected by the Biden Administration, this time Imran Khan visits china to attend Beijing Olympics and meets the Chinese President on the sidelines. Later, Imran Khan visited Russia in February and met Putin on the same day when Russia launched the Ukraine attack, resulting in Imran Khan expressing ‘regret’ that the conflict was not averted as Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Imran Khan’s standing tall beside Putin, on the same day when the Russian army launched the Ukraine attack by default made him unwittingly exposed to the wrath of the US, England, EU and NATO countries united against the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Abstaining Vote Against Russia in UN. In March 2022, Pakistan in a surprising move refrained from voting against Russia in the UN. Once again inviting the global western annoyance from the NATO-backed US-led world coalition against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Conclusion. After a highly successful visit of Imran Khan to the US meeting with Donald Trump, the new President Mr. Biden conveyed his cold shoulder to Imran Khan, immediately after the assumption of office by not inviting him to the Climate Summit in the US, despite the launch of billion trees tsunami project acknowledged by UNEP. Later on, as Biden was extremely down and dusted out of US-Afghan withdrawal failure turned disaster, the Imran Khan left no stone unturned to convey his own nationalist policies having little or no room to entertain US aggressive policy at Afghanistan through Pakistan, as per the “ABSOLUTELY NOT” propaganda statement. And it didn’t stop here, Imran Khan pressed upon by calling ‘Afghan’s shackles of slavery broken’, at a time when Biden was grilled in-house and internationally for US withdrawal. Imran Khan once again took the US upfront by saying, ‘Pakistan as a victim of US ungratefulness’ while addressing United Nations General Assembly meeting at UN Headquarters in New York. Then comes the spy chief of Pakistan making headlines with Taliban in Afghanistan, and Imran Khan once again repeatedly conveyed his displeasure in a spiteful taunt at Biden during a CNN interview calling, ‘He (Biden) is a busy person. The US Under Secretary visited Pakistan and left without meeting Imran Khan, who remained occupied in conveying a series of displeasures to US while fighting the case of the Afghan Taliban and asked for unfreezing Afghan assets in the US. The decline of the US Global Democracy Summit invite could be termed as another strategic diplomatic blunder. Finally, Imran Khan turned towards China & Russia, making headlines with Putin on the day of Ukraine’s invasion, when the overall world, especially, the US, EU and NATO countries were going mad against Putin led Russian invasion of Ukraine that prompted severe global sanctions against Russia, thereafter Pakistan abstained from the vote against Russia in UN.
The above chain of events leading to Imran Khan’s debacle needs to be thoroughly evaluated and understood, before reaching any meaningful conclusion(s) and before labelling any one cause or reason entirely attributed to Imran Khan’s ouster. In no case, Imran Khan can put all of the above-mentioned issues aside on the back burner of US conspiracy, alone. Yes, if there was a conspiracy, then it seems as if Imran Khan, did his best and whatever possible to invite the serious trouble for himself, and his political sustainability. Besides, the current crisis situation has already caused unprecedented constitutional, political and institutional damage on social media and during public rallies and it is heading for more severe consequences of potential collateral damages due to confrontationist policy duly endorsed in public rallies and all across social media.
The writer is a war veteran turned geopolitical analyst.
Can be reached at; email@example.com