At last, the most torturous and painful phase of the no-confidence motion has ended, and a new premier has replaced Imran Khan, without causing any serious damage to the fragile democratic system. Although the agony of uncertainty and unpredictability of the outcome of this parliamentary move is over, the clouds of blames, accusations, and foreign conspiracy are still hovering over the political arena of the country, creating a sense of polarisation in the society.
Let’s take a brief look at the events that led to this situation to determine which allegation or claim is authentic and convincing.
The idea of a no-confidence motion surfaced in January 2021 when the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) developed a difference on how to launch their struggle against the then government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). While the PML-N and all other parties of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) favoured a long march and en-masse resignations, the PPP insisted on avoiding any out-of-parliament action.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the PML-N was not certain about the success of the no-confidence motion. His reasons, as reported, were: “The premier would brutally use state machinery to counter this act.”
As no consensus could be evolved, the PPP parted ways with the PDM.
While the opposition parties were contemplating various methods for removal of the government, the then PM was planning on staying in power for at least 10 years without going through the exercise of holding election every five years. He wanted to emulate the dictatorial ‘Chinese Model’, where continuity of the government for a long term, in his opinion, was the most suitable method for long-term planning. This method suited the psyche of Imran Khan, who, despite owing his premiership to the democratic system, had no faith in its core values.
A column in a local newspaper appeared on March 13, 2022, that compared the regime change attempts in Ukraine and Pakistan, and pointed to an ongoing persuasion of a policy by the West that had given an impetus to the opposition’s no-confidence motion against PM Khan’s government.
Before dreams of the PM could have turned into reality, the political scenario began to change. The opposition came to the realisation that pursuing no-confidence motion was more suitable than all other options. In January 2022, the PPP said it would rejoin the PDM if the option of mass resignations is dropped.
The ‘conspiracy’ issue was not yet a matter of concern for the former PM except a little fear of the long march that was being planned by the PDM. To counter this threat, Imran Khan issued a warning to his opponents that if he was forced out of the office, he would become even more “dangerous” for them. He even reiterated his position of having no dialogues with the opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif even on key national issues. Inflexibility to a level of arrogance has been the hallmark of Khan’s personality from day one.
Rumour mills began churning out stories of the frantic activities of Khan and the opposition to pull the establishment towards their side, while the establishment continued singing the song of neutrality. Reports of Aleem Khan’s meeting with Nawaz Sharif in London surfaced, followed by Khan’s remark that only animals are neutral.
Amid these verbal attacks appeared the Minister of Interior Sheikh Rashid’s statement, that the political stakeholders should move towards reconciliation, and the formula was: “bear with Imran Khan for another year or stay in line for 10 years”. Sheikh Rashid warned the opposition against a loss of opportunity they might repent later if they didn’t grab it back then.
While the opposition was setting the stage for protest and no-confidence motion, a column in a local newspaper appeared on March 13, 2022, that compared the regime change attempts in Ukraine and Pakistan, and pointed to an ongoing persuasion of a policy by the West that had given an impetus to the opposition’s no-confidence motion against PM Khan’s government. The column also opined that the call for protest is a reminiscent of how regime changes were executed by the US in the past in countries unsupportive to its game plan. It was just in line with what Dr Shahbaz Gill, the former PM’s Special Assistant had started propagating about an alleged conspiracy of the US and its allies in Pakistan’s affairs a few days before this column had appeared.
How a government official and a columnist began talking of the US conspiracy when the conspiracy letter was still not made public? Were they prompted by the former PM to start building a case in support of a plan that can support his next drive?
How a government official and a columnist began talking of the US conspiracy when the conspiracy letter was still not made public? Were they prompted by the former PM to start building a case in support of a plan that can support his next drive? On March 30, a report appeared saying that the former PM has shared the letter with the top civil and military leadership, and only two or three cabinet members. Some contents of the letter were later shared with some senior journalists. Arshad Sharif, Kashif Abbasi and Imran Riaz Khan were among the journalists in front of whom the contents of the letter were read out.
Due to the sensitivity of the letter, the former PM had decided to not share the letter in the parliament. Senior journalists were perhaps more trustworthy for the former PM than the parliament.
The polarization that evolved during this political debacle divided the nation on the constitution, state sovereignty, supremacy of the parliament, and defection of party members. The speaker was accused by his opponents for being loyal to his party instead of the constitution, referring to Article 6. The judiciary was criticized for trespassing its limits and leaving unattended the reference concerning the Article 63 (A), though a similar reference by the president was dropped by the AGP in February last year, saying that the government has no intention of bringing legislation for the disqualification of parliamentarians over defying party line in the polls.
It shows that most of the steps taken by the former PM were purely politically motivated with one objective: how to save himself from the no-confidence motion, irrespective of what serious damage it may cause to the constitution.
The writer is a freelance journalist and senior research fellow, Center for Research and Security Studies.