Scratch beneath the surface, and we will discover many things new. This is often a misnomer in politics and in diplomacy.
Come what may, whatever cricket icon Imran Khan tries to sell; not many people in Pakistan believe in the theory that the US tried to oust his dispensation.
The Americans hardly need to overthrow any government in Islamabad.
The truth of the matter is that most rulers in Pakistan have preferred closer ties with the US.
Hence, it may not be erroneous to say that the Islamabad-Washington relationship over the years was just led or decided by America’s needs; it was actually driven in equal measure by Pakistan’s needs too.
Of course, there is merit in putting forth the argument that the Americans have always preferred a certain kind of government in Pakistan including the military regimes to serve its own security and strategic interests.
But not all the time it had played any role in installing a regime. Ziaul Haq became a chosen star for the west but only after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. So geopolitics dragged Zia closer into Washington’s lap; not any diplomatic mission of Americans.
In fact, Zia was in power before the Afghan ‘jihad’. On the contrary Zia had almost a pariah status because of the 1977 coup and the execution of an elected Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto.
Pakistan was also sanctioned by Americans in 1979 and then Zia was in office.
But Imran preferred to play the populism card. This helped him come up the ladder in politics and of course challenge two established political dynasties. But his ultimate electoral success came when army backed him.
In Pakistan, however, foreign conspiracy theories are a staple diet.
“The Pakistanis revel in conspiracy theories, and the US is the favourite villain,” says a former Pak foreign
secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan.
It is also given out so that the threat-cable owes its origin to a lunch party hosted by Pakistan’s ambassador
in the US. This only weakens Imran’s claims. Serious diplomacy do not happen during these occasions.
But like any democracy with all its weaknesses, Pakistan too has a few set of jokers – often confusing them to be as shakers and movers. One person has been Shah Mahmaood Qureshi, Imran’s foreign minister.
Now what has been explained in more ways than one is that it was a routine cable written by the then ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed, detailing a meeting with an American official.
The Americans reportedly used ‘tough language’. And Imran was later convinced that the cable could be used to stitch together “a Zulfikar Bhutto-type nationalist narrative”.
A section of Indian experts too believed that Imran has fought the initial rounds like the illustrious Bhutto.
The worst part of the story is that Imran accepted such advice.
The only minister in the Imran’s cabinet who had ‘access to the cable’ was the foreign minister Qureshi.
He had a small notoriety episode in Delhi in 2008 when Mumbai was attacked by Pak-inspired terrorists.
The next day he had come to address ‘women journalists’ in Delhi and only at the virtual scolding of the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee that he and the rest of the Pakistani delegation quickly left India.
Elements in Pakistan did not stop at that; one theory was circulated that Mukherjee had ‘threatened’ the then Pak President Asif Zardari. Explaining his response in Lok Sabha, Mukherjee had said – “diplomatic talks and phone calls are structured….it is not that India’s foreign minister can pick up phone and directly call up the Pakistan President”.
Qureshi is of that calibre and hence poor luck Imran!
On April 9, 2022, during the crucial debate on No Confidence Motion against Imran Khan government, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said – “I had warned the Prime Minister (Imran) long ago to be wary and careful about the person who spoke before me (Qureshi) that he would get Imran Khan trapped….and Usi ne phasaya (and he has done so)”.
“Qureshi not only went along with this cooked-up theory, he peddled it vociferously while all the time knowing (how could he not?) that not only was he fanning a concoction, but was doing so at the risk of great damage to Pakistan’s diplomacy and national interest,” wrote journalist Fahd Hussain in ‘Dawn’.
It is not my case to suggest that the Americans have given up the interference games in other countries.
As a superpower, or to prove itself so – it has to do things fingering businesses here and there.
But in the case of Pakistan, president Ayub Khan had first ‘challenged American interests’ in South Asia by
opening up to China.
Ayub Khan fell further from the US estimation after the 1965 war adventure against India.
But he continued to rule for another four years.
Yahya Khan was disregarded until he helped set up the US-China rendezvous.
Even Zulfikar Bhutto had tried his hands at rumour mongering and playing up people’s passions.
He had claimed ‘secret clauses’ in the Tashkent accords which were never there.
In 1999 and 2000, a lot was stated that Gen Pervez Musharraf remained ‘isolated’ despite Bill Clinton making a one day visit after his quite engaging trip to India under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The US inched closer to Musharraf only after 9/11 and the Pakistani military ruler was forced to make detailed national broadcasts announcing major changes in its foreign and strategic policies especially towards Taliban.
And it ought to be remembered that the US re-engagement with Pakistan continued well beyond Musharraf.
In a hard-hitting piece, the ‘Wall Street Journal’ also says – “In a self-destructive move, Prime Minister Imran Khan
made a mockery of Pakistan’s democratic process when he claimed that a foreign conspiracy against him was under way”.
In the ultimate analysis, Imran lost the backing of the army, and this along with his political arrogance and poor governance had cemented ties between eight opposition parties including two old rivals PPP and PML(N). The US meddling hardly was in the scene.
The truth is that Imran Khan blamed foreign forces when he actually had lost a domestic political battle.
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books, ‘The Talking Guns:
North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. Views are personal )