US Ousts Imran Khan But His Revolutionary Narrative Endures

Washington reactivated old cronies in Islamabad to unseat PM Imran Khan, but the latter has sown seeds of immense dissatisfaction with the old guard and their US backers within the Pakistani public. And Khan’s domestic and foreign allies will not sit by idly either.

SOME TALKING POINTS of MK Bhadrakumar opinion piece in The Cradle, dated April 5 2022:

1) The US may control a handful of Pakistani political and military officials, but PM Imran Khan owns the street.

2) Last Wednesday, during a meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the Tunxi city of eastern China’s Anhui province, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the thoughtful remark that there was a need “to guard against the negative spillover effects of the Ukraine crisis” in the Asian region:

“We can’t allow the Cold War mentality to return to the Asian region. It’s impossible to allow a repeat of camp confrontation in Asia. We mustn’t allow turning medium and small states in the region into an instrument or even a victim of the games of big powers…

3) Both China and Russia are acutely conscious of the geopolitical significance of the regime change event in Islamabad.

4) Russian experts anticipate a reversal of Imran Khan’s friendly policies seeking Eurasian integration. China too will be apprehensive that one of the US’s top priorities is to undermine the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which Pakistan is a major hub.

5) The US will not want Islamabad to be a facilitator for the expansion of Chinese influence in Afghanistan. During a recent visit to Kabul, Wang Yi had proposed to the leadership of the Taliban Interim government the extension of the China-Pakistani Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship of the BRI, to Afghanistan.

6) From Iran’s perspective too, any surge in the US presence in Pakistan would have serious security implications, especially if US bases were to reopen.

7) Washington’s containment strategy against Iran is expected to continue in some newer form.

8) Pakistan has a history of aligning with the US’ Persian Gulf allies in their rivalry with Iran. Imran Khan deviated from that path and genuinely sought rapprochement with Tehran. To be sure, Washington will encourage the new regime in Islamabad to revert to the default position.

9) The broader US objective will be to roll back the Chinese presence in the Persian Gulf region. Thus, for a variety of reasons, while in the US strategic calculus, Pakistan always remained an important player, in the current context of global realignment, this becomes a pivotal relationship.

10) Imran Khan’s electrifying narrative — against corruption, for social justice and inclusion, Islamism and ‘anti-Americanism’ — has struck deep roots in Pakistani soil and will be difficult to vanquish. 

11) The main opposition parties stand hopelessly discredited in the public perception, given their track record of corruption and cronyism in office. So, the big question is: Who will garner Imran Khan’s revolutionary rhetoric? A prolonged period of political turmoil can be expected.

The views expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of

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