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A Turmoil & The Blame Game

Russia has denounced shameless US intervention in Pakistan, as the South Asian nation is experiencing a political turmoil. On April 6 (2022), spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova denounced the attempt to oust Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan by a No-Confidence Vote as “another attempt of shameless US interference in the internal affairs of an independent state for its own selfish purposes”.

Zakharova, after recounting the chronology leading into the attempted No-Confidence Vote, stated bluntly: “The way the situation has proceeded to develop leaves no doubt that the US decided to punish Imran Khan for disobedience: a group of deputies from the Prime Minister’s party suddenly defected to the Opposition, and the Parliament immediately submitted the question of a Vote of No-Confidence.

Maria Zakharova

The US and allied “rude pressure” on PM Khan began immediately after he announced that he would be visiting Moscow on February 23-24 (2022). “When he nevertheless came to us, US Deputy Secretary of State (for South Asia) Donald Lu called the Pakistani ambassador in Washington DC, and demanded that the visit be immediately interrupted, which was also rejected,” stressed Zakharova.

The Russian official further said: “According to the Pakistani media, in a conversation with Pakistani Ambassador A Majid on March 7, a high-ranking US official (presumably the same D Lu) sharply condemned the balanced reaction of the Pakistani leadership to the events in Ukraine and made it clear that partnerships with the US are possible only if Imran Khan is removed from power.” The spokesperson insisted: “We hope that Pakistani voters will be informed about these circumstances when they come to the elections, which should be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly (on April 3).

Imran Khan

Pakistan is facing a constitutional crisis, as Prime Minister Khan called early elections on April 3 in yet another twist to the unending saga. Early on that day, the deputy speaker of the Parliament blocked the Oppositions’ No-Confidence Motion against the Government, led by Khan, on the ground that it was unconstitutional. Minutes later, Khan, who did not have numbers to survive the vote, said (in an address to the nation) that he had recommended to President Arif-ur-Rehman Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly and Legislative Assemblies in various provinces, and to call a fresh election. Khan reportedly said: “The public decides who they want in power. I have sent advice to the President to dissolve the Assemblies. I want to tell the public to get ready for elections… No corrupt forces will decide what the future of the country will be.” Later on April 4, he nominated former Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed for the Office of the Caretaker Prime Minister. Thereafter, the Government issued a statement, saying: “Consequent upon the dissolution of the National Assembly, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi ceased to hold the office with immediate effect.

For his part, leader of (Opposition) Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stressed: “What Imran Khan has done is against the Laws… Imran Khan has exposed himself through this move. We will be present inside the National Assembly until this decision is reversed. He is fleeing against the No-Trust Motion.” PML-N lawmaker Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, too, said: “We are not leaving the Parliament. This is now test of the Supreme Court to protect the Constitution and the country.” The Opposition parties believe that the cancelleation of the No-Confidence Vote was illegal. They vowed to contest the move in Court. Opposition Leader Shehabaz Sharif, who was set to take power if Khan lost the vote, told the press that the deputy speaker and Khan would be charged with treason for violating the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, during a special hearing, said that no state functionary should take any extra-Constitutional step. Chief Justice Sir Abdul Rashid made it clear that the actions taken by the Prime Minister and the President would be subject to the Court’s order. Officially, Imran Khan is no longer the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Earlier, Raja Khalid, the second senior-most Lawyer in the administration, resigned, saying that he could not defend the Government at any forum. “Imran Khan’s Government has made a mockery of the Constitution of Pakistan, and no dictator has done to Pakistan and its Constitution what Imran Khan has done,” he told the media. Khalid further said: “What has happened is illegal and unconstitutional.

It may be noted that in 1989, Benazir Bhutto, the then Prime Minister, defeated Pakistan’s first No-Confidence Motion brought against her by Nawaz Sharif, the then Chief Minister of Punjab Province, over her excessively partisan politics. The second No-Confidence Motion was brought against Shaukat Aziz over corruption allegations in 2006, but Aziz won the Motion.

Tailing The Taliban
In a separate development, the Afghan Taliban are keen on establishing diplomatic ties with India. Suhail Shaheen, the representative of the Taliban in the UN, recently said that the present Afghan Government would establish diplomatic ties not only with India, but also with various countries in Asia and Europe, in order to boost the economy of the war-torn nation.

In New York, Shaheen told the media that Kabul was ready to create a safe environment for the Indian diplomats and staff of other major embassies. According to the envoy, diplomatic presence could only strengthen ties between Afghanistan and India. He urged India and other countries to reopen their embassies in Kabul as soon as possible, and to start working normally.

Taliban

It may be noted that India closed its embassy in Kabul soon after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, and repatriated the Indian diplomats. However, New Delhi has been maintaining minimal contact with Taliban officials to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. So far, 8,000 metric tonnes of wheat has been shipped to Afghanistan via Wagah border with Pakistan. India plans to send a total of 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan. Significantly, Pakistan recently allowed India to use its territory to transport goods to the war-ravaged nation for the first time since 2007.

According to sources close to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, the Narendra Modi Administration in New Delhi is not sure whether Pakistan has asked the Afghan Taliban to establish diplomatic ties with India. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan, has been trying hard for the past seven months to help the Taliban Government in Afghanistan get global recognition. In addition to discussing the issue with different countries, the ISI has also started holding talks with the previous Government in Kabul. Furthermore, New Delhi is considering what could be Pakistan’s interest in opening an Indian Embassy in Afghanistan.

Although India has decided to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, New Delhi is still not ready to recognise the Taliban-led Government in Kabul. India has already made it clear that only a Government that represents all the tribes, communities and political forces of the country could ensure peace and stability in war-ravaged Afghanistan. New Delhi has also urged the Afghan Taliban not to allow terror outfits to use the Afghan soil for carrying out anti-India activities. So far, the top Taliban leadership has not accepted India’s request. Instead, Afghanistan has emerged as a safe haven for various terror outfits in the past seven months. Hence, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has hinted that there is no question of reopening the embassy in Kabul in near future.

This article has been co-authored by Christopher Lewis of Schiller Institute, Frankfurt, Germany and Koushik Das.

Christopher Lewis

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