Pakistan In Crisis – A Sudden Upset
“…While economics is a gun, politics is knowing when to pull the trigger…” – Caspian Report
In April of 2022, Imran Khan – the highly popular, 70-year old former international cricket player who had risen to the leadership of Pakistan, a state with one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, on a broadly “Populist” style platform – was removed from office as Prime Minister by a no-confidence vote, the first time such an action had happened in Pakistan’s history.
The no-confidence vote that led to Khan’s removal, on its own, had shady origins, and potential foreign interference. On March 27, 2022, following the first attempt at a no-confidence vote in Parliament had been dismissed, Khan pointedly accused the Biden Administration of interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, in an affair now known as “Lettergate”, in which Khan stated publicly that he had received a letter via a diplomatic cable from Pakistan’s embassy in the United States, that he claimed threatened “horrific consequences” for Pakistan, if Khan was not removed as Prime Minister; Khan’s government reacted to the cable with a strongly-worded demarche. Khan was blocked from releasing the actual details of the cable in question by Pakistan’s Official Secrets Act of 1923, but stated that he was prepared to show the diplomatic cable to the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
The possible reasons for such interference in Pakistani affairs are not difficult to understand. When Khan became Prime Minister in 2018, he immediately launched a vigorous campaign to start tackling the serious economic issues (YouTube link) Pakistan faced, cutting military spending, forging a realistic payment plan to address the country’s balance of payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), committing the country to a renewable energy strategy, and then had to navigate the economic disaster brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, however, Khan angered the Biden Administration by steadfastly refusing to distance himself from Russian leader Vladimir Putin, even visiting the Russian Leader in Moscow the day Russia formally invaded Ukraine.
But Khan did not stop there.
After attempting to smooth relations with India, Khan pushed forward with the country’s already strong ties to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which would create an economic transportation corridor (the CPEC) from the nation’s shared border in the Pakistani portion of the disputed Kashmir region, to the Indian Ocean port of Gwadar.
Notably, CPEC was promptly placed on the chopping block by Khan’s replacement as Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, in August of 2022.
For its part, the Biden Administration – reeling from the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in August of 2021 – was clearly smarting from its demonstrated weaknesses at all levels of governance, and needed to do something to reinvigorate its failing image. Much like the so-called “Maidan Revolution” of 2014, the removal of Khan from power immediately began to decouple Pakistan from the PRC’s orbit, and threatens the Communist nation’s “Belt & Road Initiative”.
But – for the average American…so what? Why should American’s care about all of this maneuvering in a foreign country many American’s know or care very much about?
The reason the average American needs to pay attention is that the political crisis sparked in Pakistan by Khan’s removal has erupted again, with disastrous results.
Khan – who refused to go away quietly, leading protests in an attempt to hold a special election that would likely return him to power if it were held – appeared at the Islamabad High Court on 9 May 2023 to address corruption charges. After voluntarily appearing at the court, and while being processed, the courthouse was stormed by a unit of the Pakistan Rangers, a Federal paramilitary police force operating under orders from the National Accountability Bureau, who bizarrely arrested Khan, dragging him out of the courthouse, to an undisclosed location.
In the aftermath of this, large and violent protests and rioting erupted across the nation, with angry mobs attempting to storm both regional military headquarters, as well as the local headquarters of the ISI, the Pakistani version of the CIA. Despite calls for direct military force to be used to suppress the rioting, a wide array of military commanders in the nation refused, point-blank, to apply such force. This has led to an alarmingly confusing situation, including the removal of some military commanders.
This has raised alarming concerns as to who is actually in charge of Pakistan’s armed forces, as the raid to arrest Khan seems to have come at the orders of the Chief of Army Staff, General Asim Munir, with the support of Prime Minister Sharif. (The position of “Chief of Army Staff” is the Pakistani equivalent to the US Army’s “Chief of Staff” position.)
On 11 May, the Pakistani Supreme Court ruled Khan’s arrest illegal, and ordered his immediate release. As this article goes to press, Khan has been released, and cannot be rearrested on the same charges until at least May 17…
…But, again – why should this matter to Americans?
Simple: Pakistan is not Iraq; nor is it Sudan, Bolivia or Myanmar. Pakistan is different, because Pakistan is a nuclear-armed nation…a nation that shares a land border with another nuclear-armed state, with whom it has already fought several wars. And, although relations had begun to improve while Khan was in office, those have noticeably cooled since his replacement.
Pakistan has had a shaky internal situation for decades, and beginning in 2004, the internal situation deteriorated into an actual insurgency by multiple groups, some focused on religion, like the “Pakistani Taliban”, al-Qaeda and ISIL, but also inflaming and rejuvenating supporters of an independent Balochistan.
With the sudden deterioration of the situation in a nation of nearly 248 million people, some 96.5% of whom are Muslim, the world is now facing the distinct possibility of a multi-sided civil war in a nuclear-armed state, that could lead to the reality of nuclear terrorism, potentially including actual nuclear war, something long believed to have been buried, as many of the factions now swirling in Pakistan would have no issue with loosing nuclear fire onto India, if they were to secure nuclear weapons, which would naturally provoke an immediate response.
While no “smoking gun” evidence has been released that shows conclusive interference by the Biden Administration in Pakistan’s internal affairs, the possibility cannot be dismissed. The Biden Administration has demonstrated absolutely irrational and even self-destructive behavior since assuming power in the United States…and the results of those irrational and self-destructive behaviors are now coming home to roost.
If you’re not worried – you need to catch up.
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