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Oscar should’ve gone to Pakistan PM Imran Khan for best performance to save his chair

It was a busy week for Khan—losing the majority in the Assembly, marketing a ‘threat letter’, doing everything but plugging holes in a sinking Titanic.

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Will Smith wouldn’t have walked away with the Best Actor award, had the Oscars considered the last couple of performances of Imran Khan as Prime Minister of Pakistan. Especially his last night’s act of ‘mistakenly’ naming the United States as the ‘foreign threat’ with a smug face and then pausing and saying, “Amerika nahin, kisi aur mulk se (not America, but another country)” — that might have turned more heads than Chris Rock being slapped. Not to forget the dramatic action of waving a “threat letter” from a “foreign country” to dislodge his government in a public rally, which also had audiences on edge the entire week.

This has been a busy week for the Imran Khan government. Busy losing the majority in the National Assembly after allies joined the ranks of the Opposition on the vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister. Busy finding foreign conspiracies against itself. Busy marketing a so-called ‘threat letter’, which wasn’t even a letter. Busy doing anything and everything but plugging holes in a sinking Titanic. But why plug holes when you are too busy writing your own tragicomedy?

Curious case of a letter

On 27 March, PM Imran Khan, in his Islamabad support show, waved a letter, claiming that it contains threats from a foreign power against him and hinted at a larger conspiracy to oust him with the help of the opposition parties. Alarming indeed was that neither the Interior Minister, the Defence Minister, nor the Information Minister knew about this letter. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi did claim he had many secrets in his heart, whatever that means.

Jumping into action, the security authorities ruled out that there was no international conspiracy at play to oust the Prime Minister and that no foreign country had written any threatening letter. Suddenly, in the whole LetterGate, there was no letter. For what was being referred to or made a hullabaloo about was actually a diplomatic cable by Pakistani Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan written to the Foreign Office. From not knowing anything about this letter/cable to now crying in the Cabinet meeting, “Ye Pakistan ke saath aakhir ho kya raha hai? (What’s even happening with Pakistan?)”

The cable made it to the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting, where a statement was released not naming the country but making sure that a strong demarche was issued. Contrary to the Khan administration narrative, no international conspiracy theories to oust the government were fanned; the ‘planned assassination’ of the Prime Minister and the claim that the Opposition was in cahoots with a foreign power also didn’t make the cut in the NSC statement. Pakistan called acting US Envoy in Islamabad to protest its own Ambassador’s letter.

In his live address to the nation, PM Khan repeated the same old rhetoric and used the cable for his political gain. He named the United States and went on to cast the same aspersions on political rivals as he has done throughout his term, with no bother if this makes Pakistan a laughing stock in front of the world. Consider how the governments of Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari were punished for much less in the name of Dawn Leaks and Memogate, but who will punish the Khan government for making public secret communications?

Also read: US rejects Imran Khan’s claim it wants his govt ousted in Pakistan

Foreign delusions 

For now, the ‘letter’ remained this week’s ‘truck ki batti with the voting on the no-confidence motion due on 3 April. Expect every minister and the Prime Minister to act like headless conspiracy theorists. From Germany to Japan, North to South, ‘saazish’ is brewing to oust Khan. Listen to Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry claiming that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is meeting Indian and Israeli diplomats to plan a global conspiracy. In the middle of all this, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed is convincing us how bad Sharif was when he gave Ajmal Kasab’s address to India. The match within the government is about who speaks the biggest lie and how loudly.

As of now, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mossad, the Mi6, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) are all working towards the common goal of getting rid of Imran Khan. Reason? He was “pursuing an independent foreign policy” — a claim that can’t stand on the basis of just one visit to Russia followed by a letter from the European Union ambassadors seeking support on Ukraine. If that would be the case, can Indian PM Narendra Modi claim that there is a conspiracy to oust him because the US Deputy National Security Advisor spoke of repercussions for India backing Russia? But here, the narrative is being built on conspiracy lines. Invoking Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s parallel of a “foreign hand”, waving a paper in public, Khan thinks he is ‘aadha’ Bhutto now. He refers to the latter’s murder conspiracy, but the fact is that Bhutto was judicially assassinated under Gen Zia-ul Haq’s eye. Now, who is Khan’s Zia? We don’t know.

The much-talked-about sovereign foreign policy of Pakistan is such that US President Joe Biden hasn’t called Khan even once after coming to power. The PM’s phone calls and letters to Narendra Modi have fallen on deaf ears. After seeing Khan celebrate the arrival of the Taliban in the neighbourhood and constantly back them in front of the world, even our own prodigy is ready to make eyes at us. The relationship with Saudi Arabia was soured when Shah Mahmood Qureshi threatened that Pakistan will consider making its own Islamic bloc with Malaysia and Turkey. And China isn’t happy with the slow progress on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). So, which delusional sovereign foreign policy are we chasing that has brought the wrath on Khan?

Also read: Political turmoil in Pakistan adds to surge in default risk, triggers currency & bond loss

Trump card

Ever since 8 March, when the Opposition announced the no-confidence motion, Imran Khan’s focus has remained on the muck. For it is muck in which his government has so far survived and thrived. He doesn’t need the number of people queuing to see him in rallies, he needs numbers in the National Assembly. But Khan was focussing on the fact that 10 lakh people will come to his jalsa, and ministers remained busy threatening members of parliament to walk through the crowd to cast their vote. And again the PM claims that one lakh people would come out on the day of the voting. If you bring out 20,000 people on the roads, ‘the Generals would wet their pants’, as someone once claimed.

Imran Khan is also using the religion card to convince people that this fight is not about losing majority but some ‘good vs evil’ holy war, pandering to the religious Right by talking of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat, anti-Ahmadi bigotry, and even Islamophobia. Why not convince the people you are the contractor of faith too? Another is the violence card that federal ministers have been using to show the desire to become suicide bombers and explode themselves in the Assembly. How can an assembly use a constitutional way to replace Khan? Insurrection, not the Trump way. All the trump cards — from conspiracy to people’s power to religion — haven’t rid PM Imran Khan of his one basic problem: how to not lose his chair. Now let’s wait for the last ball of the last over.

Naila Inayat is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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