Beleaguered Imran pats India’s foreign policy

Pak. PM slams Army, Opposition; faces no-confidence motion in National Assembly on March 25

March 20, 2022 10:58 pm | Updated March 21, 2022 11:32 am IST - NEW DELHI

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview in Islamabad. File

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview in Islamabad. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday launched a verbal attack on the Pakistan Army and the Opposition as his three and half year old government was presented with its biggest crisis with the announcement of a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly on March 25. Mr. Khan said the Opposition had criticised him for declining an American request for a military base for action against the Taliban and said he would forgive dissidents who had left his party in recent weeks.

“My country’s foreign policy should be for the welfare of our people. Today, I congratulate our neighbour India because they always maintained an independent foreign policy. They have an alliance with the United States under the Quad [but] buying crude oil from Russia,” said Mr. Khan, addressing a rally in Malakand of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 

“Who are the people who put on caps and roam around the country? I was asked if Pakistan would give a military base to the United States. I have maintained for 25 years, neither I bowed down before anyone nor will I bow down to anyone,” said Mr. Khan reminding that Pakistan lost 80,000 people when the country joined the war on terror in Afghanistan during the reign of General Pervez Musharraf. “We are with you during peace but not in times of war,” he said indirectly referring to the U.S.

Moscow visit

Mr. Khan became the first Pakistani leader to visit Moscow in more than two decades on February 24 and ahead of his visit, he had sought a debate with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to ease bilateral tensions. He had in the recent months compared India’s present political atmosphere with the Nazi era of Germany. 

“The entire country has come to its senses. It is not possible to mislead them anymore. Those of my colleagues who have made the mistake. I will forgive them. You can come back,” said Mr. Khan who described the figures of the Opposition and the military establishment as “stooges”. The Prime Minister said he stood for freedom of Pakistan. 

“If I have to steal public money to save my government, then it’s better that my government should fall,” said Mr. Khan.

Mr. Khan’s working meeting with President Vladimir Putin took place hours after the latter ordered Russian forces into Ukraine to carry out the “special military operation”. Mr. Khan’s political problems began almost immediately as the timing of his visit to Moscow was criticised by his rivals at home who targeted him for the poor handling of the economic situation in the country. Political temperature rose on March 8 when the no-confidence motion was moved by the Opposition leaders who are bolstered by support from the Pakistan Peoples Party. Mr. Khan’s problems increased on March 17, when several members of his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf left him blaming him for mismanaging the economy. He requires 172 members to survive the motion and there are chances that he may fall short of the majority if the current trend continues.

Mr. Khan’s tilt towards Moscow was preceded by his visit to Beijing where he participated in the celebrations for the Winter Olympics along with several other leaders. These interactions took place in the backdrop of American warning about an impending Russian attack against Ukraine. Prime Minister Khan’s political problems increased with apparent neutrality from Army Chief General Bajwa who reportedly asked him to step down in the context of the increased domestic unrest. 

The announcement of the no-confidence motion against Mr. Khan’s government comes seven months after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that was perceived as a weakening of U.S. presence in the Af-Pak theatre. The development was expected to increase his importance in the region but the Pakistani leader failed to open new frontiers in ties with the U.S. and his engagement with the Biden administration has remained frosty. His chief rival, the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has been cautioning Pakistan to take a nuanced position on security and foreign affairs-related issues.

Mr. Sharif’s brother Shehbaz Sharif, the current Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, is most likely to emerge at the centre-stage of Pakistani politics in the coming days. 

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