Rajat Sharma

Why Imran Khan defied Army and named America in his televised speech

AKb (1)Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, cornered by a combined opposition ahead of the Sunday no-trust vote, on Thursday night refused to resign and blamed the US for conspiring to remove him from power. In his televised address to the nation, Imran Khan said: “I’ve played cricket for 20 years. Those who played against him saw, I always fought till the last ball. I’ve never accepted defeat in life. Nobody should think that I’d sit at home. I’ll come back stronger, whatever the result may be”.

In a major gaffe, that could be either deliberate or unintentional, during his extempore address to the nation, Imran Khan first named America, and realizing his slip of tongue, said the threat came from a foreign country. Describing the no-confidence motion as a “big foreign conspiracy against Pakistan”, Imran said, he would not name the country because the consequences will not be good for Pakistan.

Imran Khan said, “the threatening letter” of March 7 stated that Pakistan would face serious consequences if the no-trust move failed. He said the language of the letter was very harsh and it mentioned the no-trust motion several times. Late in the night, Pakistan lodged a strong protest by summoning the acting US envoy in Islamabad and handed him a strong demarche which said use of such strong diplomatic language was unacceptable.

Earlier in the day, Imran Khan showed the memo to the National Security Committee attended by service chiefs and senior ministers. The memo contained minutes of a meeting between the Pakistani envoy and a senior US official. In his televised speech, Imran Khan said, the foreign-funded plot to oust him from power was only because he wanted to pursue “an independent foreign policy”.

The US State Department spokesman Ned Price rejected Imran Khan’s charges saying “there was no truth in the allegations. We respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law”. White House communications director also said, “there is absolutely no truth” to Imran Khan’s allegations that the US was working with opposition leaders to remove Imran Khan from power.

The beleaguered Pakistani PM lashed out at his opponents describing them as three “stooges” (Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif, Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto and Maulana Fazlur Rahman), who, he alleged, had no guts to utter a word against the US, when its drones were taking out targets inside Pakistan. He also lashed out at former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf for selling out to the US during the post-9/11 Afghanistan war. Imran Khan claimed that he was the lone leader who led protests against US drone attacks.

Imran Khan told Pakistanis: “I want all of you to remember who are the Mir Jafars who are working against our nation. It was because of men like Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq, who colluded with the British East India Company, got Sirajuddaulah, the Nawab of Bengal, defeated and made us slaves. Future generations of Pakistan will never forgive you for colluding with foreign powers”. He said, “foreign powers have developed a liking for Sharifs and Asif Ali Zardari, because they knew all the details of their ill-gotten cash and properties stashed abroad.”

He said, “Americans were unhappy because I had visited Russia during the outbreak of Ukraine war. ..I ask my nation today, is this our status? We are a nation of 22 crore people and another country is giving us threats, they are not giving any reason except saying that he (Imran) went to Russia. They said, Imran decided to go to Russia, even though the Foreign Office and military leadership told him not to go. Our ambassador told them the PM’s decision to visit Russia was made after consultations but they said, their ties with Pakistan cannot be good if Imran stays in power. What they are actually saying is, they have no issue with people who will replace Imran Khan.”

Imran Khan has did what the army asked him not to do. The army had asked him not to name America and refrain from mentioning the controversial letter. Imran had wanted to address the nation on Wednesday, but, according to reports, when Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa came to know that he might name America, he along with his ISI chief, met him and requested not to name the US. The televised address was postponed. Even on Thursday, when Imran was supposed to address the nation at 7 pm, his colleagues and army leadership again requested him not to name the US and confine his speech to domestic issues only.

But Imran Khan defied all these, and went on air to convey the message that the entire opposition was in cahoots with America to dislodge him from power. He indirectly alleged that even the Pakistan army was acting at the behest of America. Imran Khan knows that his government’s days are numbered, and only a wave of sympathy from people can bring him back to power in the elections, and keep his brand of politics alive.

The reactions were on expected lines. A furious Shehbaz Sharif, being projected as Imran Khan’s successor as PM, demanded ban on Imran Khan’s speeches saying he was “a security risk for Pakistan”. Shehbaz Sharif said, Imran Khan Niazi has brought Pakistan into disrepute in his desperate bid to cling to power. “Imran should stop speaking, otherwise if I open my mouth against him, he will be in trouble”, Nawaz Sharif’s brother said.

The numbers in Parliament are against Imran Khan, and it is only a matter of time before his government collapses. Imran knows that his game is up, and that is why, he is trying to project himself as a martyr in politics.

Imran is feeling the added pain of having to watch his political rival Shehbaz Sharif taking over as the new PM, once his government falls. He even went to the extent of requesting his Army Chief Gen Bajwa to persuade the opposition to withdraw its no-trust motion, so that the National Assembly could be dissolved and fresh elections ordered. But Gen. Bajwa obviously found no gain in this move, because the army would rather prefer a divided opposition, so that it can remotely control the civilian government. The coming days in Pakistan politics will be quite interesting.

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