BY FARHAN MUJAHID CHAK
APR 11, 2022 – Daily Sabah, Istanbul
What we’re seeing in Pakistan is Imran Khan paying the price for what he bravely did for the good of his own nation
Wonders will never cease. From isolation to adoration; fear to courage; chaos to order. Now, back to disarray. In Pakistan, for every three steps forward, there are two backward. Tenaciously though, the hardened state survives. Grasping wildly, gnawing toward victory with its teeth, and clawing its way forward inch by inch. This is despite the several contradictory and contentious wielders of power within the deep state, and the corrupt political dynastic classes, who manipulate state institutions. Essentially, corruption flourishes – whether in the police, judiciary, media, bureaucracy or elsewhere, by undermining the state. Worse, and Pakistan is not alone in facing this, the plague of foreign interference, which unquestionably erodes any pretense of parliamentary supremacy, voter confidence and the rule of law. How is it that the political stability of a sovereign nation – a nuclear power at that, be so easily undermined by paltry sums handed to unscrupulous charlatans? Is the manipulation of parliamentary voting, enabled by external finances, not a treasonous betrayal of both the writ and spirit of the constitution? By allowing such scheming shenanigans are we not insulting both the democratic ethos and popular will?
Without doubt, there can be no legitimacy in any process marred by outside meddling. That is what we are witnessing in Pakistan today. It’s not about the constitution, paramountcy of law, or honoring the democratic process, but about ways to undermine it through trickery. Now, this was being done by engineering a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan. One that has risen by U.S. foreign interference.
Consequently, the vote of no confidence was categorically rejected by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Qasim Suri. Then, the matter was taken to the Supreme Court, and in their bizarre short order, declared that canceling the vote of no confidence is erroneous. In the judgment, the Supreme Court ordered the National Assembly to reconvene and take a no-confidence vote. Imagine the absurdity of demanding the Supreme Court reinstate the former Prime Minister Imran Khan, so that the united opposition – many paid stooges and turncoats – can remove him. The judgment made no mention of horse-trading, foreign interference or the curious case of dissident members. Considering that, the vote of no confidence is really about are the intersections of hegemony, hostile manipulation of the democratic process in the global south, and the prejudicial impulses of neocolonialism.
The letter’s process
First, on March 7, 2022, prior to any formal submission of a vote of no confidence in Pakistan’s National Assembly, the Prime Minister’s office received the infamous “letter.” To clarify, it’s an official communique. Not some over-the-top, exaggerated opinion on what transpired. The letter’s tone, spirit and choice of words are arrogant, threatening and reminiscent of a colonial mindset. More damning, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu – the alleged individual who uttered the threats – has not denied it. Then, the letter was shared with Pakistan’s National Security Council who clearly described it as demanding regime change in Pakistan. Khan’s government even summoned the U.S. diplomat in Islamabad and condemned the influence-peddling. If this is not an unequivocal instance of U.S. meddling in Pakistan’s internal politics, then what is? The Supreme Court took absolutely no notice of this letter pretending like it did not exist.
Second, Khan’s government persuasively argues that certain corrupt elements within state institutions – the political, judicial and bureaucratic classes – have accepted bribes to initiate a successful vote of no confidence. Keep in mind, that this process began after the letter was sent. Following that, rumors began to abound in Pakistani television, newspapers and social media that several government members in the National Assembly were ready to jump ship. Making this even more controversial are the government claims that it has hard evidence of horse-trading and buying of votes. If true, this is further evidence of an affront to the constitution and in clear violation of the rule of law. Still, even though Khan’s government requested a judgment by the Supreme Court on Article 63(a) on horse-trading and turncoats, nothing has been forthcoming. Why the selective judicial outrage? Khan should fully disclose the entirety of this crisis.
Third, there is a rather ludicrous argument being peddled that Khan is undemocratic. And, that he ought to let the democratic process unfold and not stand in its way. How is it democratic to allow the manipulation of a country’s popular mandate? How does the judiciary allow murderers, traitors, horse traders and convicted criminals to abuse Pakistan’s parliamentary democratic structures in this way? In fact, a strong argument may be made that there can be no vote of confidence until it is decided who is able to vote. Still, the Supreme Court has not responded to a demand to probe allegations of foul play nor has it considered the threat of foreign interference. In other words, the consensus that emerged from the nonpartisan National Security Committee of Pakistan that there is evidence of “blatant interference” has been ignored. In fact, the Supreme Court even disallowed Khan’s government lawyers to submit a petition to review their short order. What does this mean for the rule of law in Pakistan? The paid stooges and charlatans that have engineered the vote of no confidence are mere spectators in the broader machinations governed by foreign powers and their interests. Enslaving a nation, while enriching themselves… This is a pertinent question for democracies in the global south on whether foreign interference is grounds to initiate treasonous proceedings against those involved in sabotaging the collective will of the people? Alternatively, would it not be treasonous to just stand by and do nothing while the people’s mandate is being stolen?
Fourth, it’s critically important to reiterate Khan’s government achievements. Especially because there is a massive misinformation campaign ongoing against him, to justify stealing his mandate. First, upon assuming office he signed a cheaper new liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal that helped save $317 million a year, and $3 billion for the next 10 years. Second, he reopened the practically defunct textile industry and exported $26 billion worth of textiles. Third, he managed to renegotiate the Reko Diq deal to a 50-50 partnership and canceled the $11 billion penalty that was imposed. Fourth, he disallowed any drone attacks on his own people and warned the U.S. he would shoot them down. Alternatively, during the previous regime, there were 400 drone attacks in Pakistan. Fifth, he set an impeccable standard of decency, honor and humility by refusing to stay in the prime minister’s residence and traveling with small entourages, thereby saving the country tens of millions of dollars annually. Sixth, his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is praised worldwide: Pakistan ranked No. 2 in the world by the Economist magazine’s global normalcy index measuring post-pandemic recovery. Seventh, he made three cancer hospitals in Pakistan that provide free services to the needy. Eighth, he created the Sehat (health) card, which provided up to 1 million Pakistani rupees ($5,415) worth of free health care for every household at any public or private hospital. Ninth, he created 5.5 million new jobs during his tenure. Tenth, he created the poverty alleviation “Ehsaas Program,” which earned global praise, including from the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations. Eleventh, Khan’s government and his team at the U.N. – under the leadership of Pakistan’s diplomat Munir Akram – passed a resolution condemning Islamophobia and making March 15 a day to combat it. Twelfth, he built dozens of “panagahs” – free rest houses for poor rural laborers who come to the city for menial work. This ensured they don’t sleep on the streets and benches. Of course, these are not all of his achievements but they give the reader an idea of what he did.
Lastly, beyond petty partisan politics, it is essential for every nation to coalesce around a shared vision and respect its state institutions. At this somber juncture, Pakistan’s visionary leader, Khan – without a single taint of corruption, nepotism or injustice – has been removed, by nothing short of a corrupt, broken system that cannot tolerate an uncorrupt man to rule over them. Say what you like, but Pakistan’s fiery Khan, more than anything, has revolutionized Pakistan. He stood courageously as an honest, honorable man, against the socioeconomic, judicial and political mafias in the country. He called them out for their corruption. He refused to accept their injustice. Moreover, he stood up to global hegemons and neocolonialists who condemned the country to economic dependency and political isolation. He resisted it all, but, most of all, he allowed his people to dream. A beautiful dream that one day – God willing – they too can be a free, independent and prosperous nation that will refuse to bow to anyone. Thank you, Imran, for everything. The prayers of millions are with you, don’t give up on us yet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Associate Professor of International Affairs, Qatar University