Hoping against hope

The Imran government certainly seems hoping against hope that it could somehow prevent the humiliation-ensuring countdown on the no-confidence motion, formally tabled against the prime minister in the National Assembly early this week.

Relying on this visibly wishful strategy, it directed Qasim Suri, the Deputy Speaker, to adjourn the House until Sunday, after presiding over a deliberately delayed and briefest possible sitting of the National Assembly Thursday evening.

The overcrowded opposition benches were simply not interested to deal with any other item put on the day’s agenda anyway. Instead of formally putting questions during the hour allotted for them, member after member from the opposition benches kept egging Mr Suri to quickly move to headcount, on the motion tabled against the prime minister. It helped Suri to adjourn the House, while blaming members’ “lack of interest.”

While the opposition members were reluctant to participate in the Question Hour, the crowd sitting on the government benches tried hard to embarrass them with fierce and relentless shouts of “Loota-Loota (turncoats).”

Khalid Magsi, a member from Balochistan who recently had crossed over to the opposition, felt extremely offended by these chants. He even rushed to the government benches to incite brawls. But the opposition leaders persuaded him to calmly return back to his seat. They didn’t want the chaos and bedlam to divert attention from the sole objective of forcing the headcount on the motion of no-confidence.

The government had certainly played relentless tricks to elude the inevitability. When nothing seemed working, Prime Minister Imran Khan finally flaunted a paper before a charged crowd of his supporters in Islamabad Sunday evening.

He claimed to be in possession of a “letter,” apparently coming from a powerful foreign country, “dictating” him to “refrain from pursuing an independent foreign policy for Pakistan. He didn’t reveal actual contents of the said letter and merely talked in general/rhetorical terms.

But he and his loyalists kept using the same “letter” to spin the story that some powerful countries of the world were not happy with his recent visit to Russia; they don’t feel comfortable with his love for China either. Since he had firmly refused to succumb, the same countries were now trying to topple his government through managing the presentation of a no confidence motion against him.

Nonstop hyping of the said story primarily wants to project all the opposition parties ganging up against Imran Khan these days, as “shameless stooges and collaborators” of (hostile) foreign countries.

Imran Khan and his diehard loyalists seriously believed that the story he had passionately told would ignite patriotic rage among the people of Pakistan. Fearing the blowback of it, the opposition parties would rush to withdraw the no-confidence motion tabled against him. The opposition refused to bend, however, and mockingly questioned the story he had told.

This compelled the government to “do more” to establish credibility of the story told by him. After much thinking and confusing dilly-dallying, a select group of journalists the government considered “senior, respected and credible” were invited for a detailed briefing at the Prime Minister’s Office Wednesday.

The actual “letter” was still not shown to them. But its “contents” were revealed, almost in detail. Ostensibly, the said briefing was “off the record.” But the ratings-starved anchors of 24/7 channels seldom follow the understated and guarded traditions of old-school journalism.

Soon after the said briefing, almost every TV viewer of Pakistan was led to believe that during the first week of March, Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington was “summoned” for an important meeting with the Assistant Secretary of the State on South Asia. Presumably, the said officer expressed deep annoyance over Imran Khan’s recent visit to Moscow. Also told our ambassador that from now on the Biden Administration would not want to maintain cordial relations with the Imran government. Hints were also dropped, allegedly, that Washington was now eagerly waiting for the “regime change” in Pakistan through the success of the no confidence motion tabled against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Instead of being shown a “threatening letter,” the selected journalists were in effect informed about the contents of the “cable” the Pak Ambassador might have transmitted to Islamabad after his meeting with a senior official of the US State Department.

We are in no position to find out, on our own, what actually was conveyed to Pak Ambassador or what parts of the said conversation he had found “threatening” while drafting his cable.

After spending more than two decades in reporting on foreign affairs, I have to inform you, however, that such meetings never occur without the presence of “note takers.” Their notes of a meeting are then passed on to archives of the US State Department. And after completion of a specific period such conversations are also declassified and thus made available for public consumption.

Yet some US publications recently fought long and intense legal battles to get access to highly “sensitive documents” related to what had been happening in Afghanistan since the US forces went there after 9/11. The “cable,” Pak media is hyping these days can also motivate a US publication to seek access to a written record of the meeting that presumably took place between Pak Ambassador to Washington and the senior US State Department Official in early March of this year.

A diehard loyalist of Imran Khan, Faisal Vawda, had surely created sufficient justification for seeking access to above mentioned conversation by furiously insisting on popular TV channels of Pakistan throughout Wednesday. He kept claiming: “forces turned against Imran Khan also plan to assassinate him.”

I genuinely believe that even a completely insane ‘diplomat’ will never talk of “assassinating” the head of a foreign country while talking to his ambassador. Even if a powerful country really wants to go for such assassination, it will hate to brag about it. Such ‘missions’ are rather completed in absolute secrecy.

But the Imran government continues to strongly feel that the story, its enraged supporters have been promoting, ferociously, finally succeeded to create a situation where powerful quarters of our deep state, perceived to have turned “neutral” of late, would now be forced to get active to search for the so-called ‘middle ground’.

Most journalists, known for relishing active access to powerful quarters, kept telling me in whispers at Parliament House Thursday that the opposition would “soon” be persuaded to withdraw the motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister. Once the opposition agreed to it, the Prime Minister would announce the holding of early elections, somewhere in the month of September 2022.

In spite of humbly listening to their ‘predications,’ I still feel forced to write that Prime Minister Imran Khan can prevent the count on No-Confidence Motion only by resigning from his office. No other escape route is now left for him.

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