It has become verified through a leaked cable that Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed due to his reticence and neutrality on the Ukraine conflict, as well as his strengthening bond with the Russian Federation. This was all revealed by Imran Khan when he was ousted in a no-confidence motion in mid-2022. He stated that he had in his possession a diplomatic cable (cipher). While he could not make the document public due to the Official Secrets Act, he did discuss its contents profusely.
What he stated came true when someone made the cable public by handing it to The Intercept. It revealed that during a meeting between then-Pakistani ambassador Asad Majeed and Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu, Washington was displeased with Pakistan’s stance in the Ukraine conflict. Lu stated, “I think if the no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister succeeds, all will be forgiven in Washington because the Russia visit is being looked at as a decision by the Prime Minister.” If this did not happen, he stated, then “I think it will be tough going ahead.” He also remarked that Mr. Khan would face isolation from the US and Europe if he continued unabated on this path.
This is why Imran Khan was removed by the military elites and a puppet government replaced his.
Pakistan’s Secret Arms Deal to Ukraine
According to The Intercept, another leaked document confirms how Pakistan changed its stance of neutrality to support Ukraine. According to the document, after ousting Imran Khan, Pakistan has become a reliable ally to the US, providing arms to the Ukrainians. For Pakistan’s support of Ukraine, the US played a pivotal part in releasing an IMF bailout that Pakistan desperately needed.
Pakistan has been extremely beneficial to the Ukrainian cause as the country produces the types of basic munitions needed for grinding warfare. However, it must be noted that both Pakistan and Ukraine deny that the former is sending weapons to the latter. Pakistan states that it maintains a neutral stance vis-à-vis the conflict. However, it is hard to debate with the documents that were provided to The Intercept by someone within the Pakistani military – they claim that there was a US-Pakistan munitions agreement from summer 2022 until spring 2023. The documents were given further credence when the signature of an American brigadier general on the documents was matched with public records.
For most of its history, Pakistan has been caught in the shadow of the now-aging superpower, the US. Under Imran Khan’s leadership, it seemed that the country would adopt a flexible and independent foreign policy, but this paradigm shift was not acceptable to America and the military elites of Pakistan. Pivoting towards the US and aiding Ukraine offered Pakistan two things:
- An IMF bailout that it gravely needed.
- Imprisoning Imran Khan and his supporters to ensure his party is weakened before the next elections.
With regard to the first point, to win the loan from the IMF, the country needed to meet certain financing and refinancing requirements. “The weapons sales came to the rescue,” and gave some respite in the tough economic situation. The Intercept’s investigation claims that Donald Lu met Pakistan Ambassador to the US Masood Khan on May 23rd, where Lu told Khan that the munitions’ payment was cleared by the US and that they would tell the IMF about the arms program. The money Pakistan was owed by the US was around $900 million, which “would help to cover a remaining gap in the financing required by the IMF, pegged at roughly $2 billion.” The IMF and the US have denied this damning accusation.
Eyebrows were raised when the IMF on June 29th, a day before the initial program was set to expire, stated that it would enter into a new agreement with Pakistan which had fewer strings attached and less stringent terms. If this deal had not been reached, there would have been an economic meltdown in the country.
Moving on to the 2nd point. The Pakistani military elites and its veritable arm, the government of Pakistan, leveraged the space afforded economically by the IMF bailout to pursue a systematic crackdown on Imran Khan and his party. Imran Khan is in jail due to alleged mishandling of secret documents and facing around 150 other charges. Moreover, thousands of his followers are in jail or missing. Some party members like Dr Shahbaz Gill have been tortured as well. Pro Imran Khan journalist Imran Riaz was arrested, and his current whereabouts are unknown, insinuating that he is either dead or in the custody of intelligence agencies. Free speech stands curtailed with hardly any positive voice for Imran Khan in the media despite his meteoric popularity. Democracy is superficial at best, with protests in support for Imran Khan being met with arrests and violence. The US has also remained suspiciously inaudible about the suspension of civil liberties in the country, offering mere rhetorical statements of support to democracy. The US does not care if a country is a democracy, autocracy, or theocracy, it only cares if its interests are satiated.
Fearing its key ally Pakistan was cozying up to Russia at the expense of its sponsored conflict in Ukraine, it was pivotal in uprooting Imran Khan’s government. However, when people are dying, tortured, and disappearing in Pakistan at the hands of the military elites, the US, the ostensible champion of human rights and democracy, stands unbothered.
This is just another indignant example of the US’ imperial designs to stay in power and sustain its current hegemonic project, i.e., the Ukraine conflict. Pakistan has been punished for standing on the right side of history, and yet again the country’s power corridors have bowed down to US interests.
Taut Bataut – is a researcher and writer that publishes on South Asian geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.