Absolutely not!

Imran Khan’s political doctrine, over the past many years, has rested on the idea of exposing the hypocrisy of the status quo in Pakistan. Till recently, this merely entailed a confrontation with the Sharifs and Zardaris of our land, whose narrative and façade of public interest belied the hypocrisy of their corrupt and self-serving politics. This task, in itself, was monumental. In fact, there is every chance that Imran Khan would fail (in Parliament and on the streets) against the forces of the status quo. But still, this was a domestic fight—against an entrenched ‘Democracy (Pvt.) Ltd.’ structure. A fight that Imran Khan had chosen to fight. One that he expects to win.
But, this past week, Imran Khan expanded the canvas of this fight, to take on the real star-spangled puppeteers backstage. A taboo line, which politicians across the developing world have avoided transgressing. In fact, the likes of Sharifs and Zardaris are trying (even now) to distance themselves from Imran Khan and his position.
And for the most part, the people are stunned. Incredulous and stunned… at the audacity of this man to challenge the unspoken covenant of our ‘world order’. To call America out on its brazen attempt to subvert a sovereign democracy. To call America out on the hypocrisy of its public narrative. On its infamous history of toppling foreign governments and installing puppet rulers. From Guatemala to Cuba. From Iran to Syria. From Venezuela to the coloured revolutions of Eastern Europe. According to a recent Chinese study, the United States has made (at least) 74 attempts in the past 100 years to bring about regime change in other countries.
Much more importantly, even where the United States has not actively ‘changed’ regimes, it has certainly played a tacit role in bringing people to power, or keeping them there. Most of the Middle East rules owe the legitimacy of their undemocratic rule to America’s support. Just a few years back, former US President, Donald Trump, publicly flaunted how he had told the King of Saudi Arabia how he “wouldn’t last a week” in power, without US support. At other places, even democratically elected leaders, who oppose the United States, are dubbed as ‘dictators’—e.g. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In the same vein, American interference in, and tacit approval for, governments in Pakistan has been an open secret for almost the entire history of our nation. Military dictators like Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf drew their tainted legitimacy from being acceptable to the United States. Democrats like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had to pay with their lives, for opposing the Empire. US Secretary of State, Condaleeza Rice candidly admitted that Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan, in 2007, through an ‘arrangement’ negotiated and guaranteed by the Americans. Hillary Clinton is on record for having brokered the end of the Lawyers’ Long March in 2009, in lieu of restoring Iftikhar Chaudhry and giving Nawaz Sharif the ‘next’ (2013) government. What to talk of Memo-gate, and individuals like Hussain Haqqani doing the bidding of their red white and blue masters.
So is Imran Khan’s claim correct, that the United States, in cohorts with domestic political players, is trying to topple his government, as a ‘punishment’ for deepening relations with Russia and China? Let us delve deeper into the facts.
Khan, in his capacity as the sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan, claims to have received an official communique, through Pakistan’s ambassador in a foreign country (no points for guessing which one), which unequivocally states that the said country’s relations with Pakistan will depend on whether or not Imran Khan survives the upcoming vote of no-confidence (which had not then been presented). The said country—lets dispense with niceties—America, warns Pakistan’s establishment that, in case Imran Khan survives the vote of no confidence, Pakistan will face unprecedented consequences, including global isolation and financial troubles. And, in case Imran Khan loses the vote of no-confidence (with the help of domestic stakeholders, of course), that Pakistan will be “forgiven”. And, somewhere in this story, based on meetings between American embassy officials and opposition leaders, there is the matter of ‘financing’ this vote of no confidence, so as to ensure that enough ‘zameer’ are awakened to remove Imran Khan.
Well, to begin with, who is America to “forgive” anyone? In fact, for all the violence, wars, bombings and pillaging over the past many decades, it is America that needs to seek the world’s “forgiveness”. And especially with Pakistan, it is America that should be asking the “forgiveness” of the Pakistani people, who have sacrificed more then 80,000 innocent lives in the American ‘war against terror’. And maybe, if America returns us the lost years, the lost revenues, the lost reputation, and recompense immeasurable heartache and pain, will the people of Pakistan think about entertaining this offer.
Next, is it hard to believe that Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari and Fazl-ur-Rehman would accept the money and plan of the Americans, in order to oust their political rival? Have they ever resisted American pressure on anything in the past?
In the wake of our National Security Council’s statement accepting the veracity of the alleged communique, and the unprecedented threats contained therein, there is no real doubt that Pakistan’s democratically elected Prime Minister was specifically threatened and then plotted against by America. This act breaks every international law principle in vogue, in addition to being a direct subversion of an independent sovereign nation state. And no dignified individual, worth his salt, would bear such treatment.
Except, of course, Pakistan’s illustrious opposition.
Thankfully, the people of Pakistan are not like the Sharifs, Zardaris and their cohorts. The people of Pakistan are making no excuses for America, in terms of diplomatic exchange and veracity of the threat at hand. The nation seems to have bought Imran Khan’s stance on the issue. As any self-respecting people (not the opposition) would. And this resonance among the people has allowed Imran Khan to address the issue more aggressively.
Naturally, Imran Khan has now framed the debate as follows: that America, which does not have Pakistan’s best interests at heart, wants to remove Imran Khan for developing closer ties with Russia (and China). That the spineless opposition leaders, seeped in charges of corruption, cannot stand up to America because all of their (looted) money and properties are in western countries, and thus liable to being confiscated. That Imran Khan is the only Pakistan leader who is not beholden to the West, and is thus willing to expose this open secret of American interference in Pakistani politics. That the opposition leaders wish to bow before America, in a bid to win Washington’s favour, and return back to power. For this, the opposition has, at the bidding of America, brought about this vote of no confidence. And foreign money, channelled through our opposition leaders, is being used to ‘buy’ people off, to ensure success of the no confidence vote.
Imran Khan has laid bare the underlying knots in the fabric of our democracy. We all recognise that, for most of Pakistan’s history, political leaders and the establishment of Pakistan have looked to the West to seek instructions and a nod for bringing people to power. And such power only lasts till such time the Americans allow it.
There is a war unfolding, right now, in Pakistan. A war for the very soul of our polity. A battle for dominion over the socio-political conscience of the nation. A clash between compromise and confrontation. Between defence and dignity. Between prudence and provocation. Between servitude and freedom.
And Imran Khan may not win the vote of no confidence, but certainly seems to be winning the hearts and minds of Pakistani people.
And so, in solidarity with the slogan that has galvanised our people around this noble cause, let us (unequivocally) say once again: Absolutely Not!

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be contacted at saad@post.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter

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