Pakistan and United States of America recently celebrated 75 years of ties between the two countries at a time when the former Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed the US for overthrowing his...
Pakistan and United States of America recently celebrated 75 years of ties between the two countries at a time when the former Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed the US for overthrowing his government. He built his anti-US narrative based on a “cipher”, but received a setback with back-to-back two audio leaks of Imran Khan on this very issue and his conversation with party leaders.
While the government has ordered an inquiry into the two audio leaks, the report that the said cipher is missing from the PM House, stir a new controversy. But, the recent audio leaks of former as well as sitting premier have raised serious questions over national security.
Irrespective of the outcome of these leaks and the cipher, Imran Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), are still defending their position the present government is “imported” and came into power with the US backing in convenience with local players.
Fact remains that anti-US sentiments still sell in the market and Imran and his party would not let it die down till the next elections. Pakistan and US historically have a “love and hate” relationship which has seen many ups and down, trust and distrust even to an extent that at times its impact was felt on the political arena.
When Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan decided to visit the US, and as many believed gave preference to US over USSR, the later events resulted in the ban on left-wing politics in Pakistan. Years back, I interviewed a seasoned official of the US Embassy in Islamabad who confirmed that during early years the US encouraged countries who discouraged communists’ activities.
Pakistan also joined CETO and CENTO during the Cold War, but pulled out from both during the government of former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who instead joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Later, he also tried to form an Islamic and Third World bloc. But, earlier in 1956, Pakistan also signed a US-sponsored programme, “Atoms for Peace”, a civil nuclear programme. Under this programme, many young scientists went to US for training. Pakistan also got US assistance in the other fields as well.
The first major jolt to the ties between the two countries occurred when during the 1971 War most Pakistanis expressed their disappointment over the US role and raised questions as to why the 7th US fleet did not come to help Pakistan in the war against India.
Pak-US relationship remained tense during the PPP’s first government particularly over Pakistan’s decision to launch its nuclear programme after India conducted the first nuclear test.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, during his visit to Islamabad, tried to persuade Bhutto to close the nuclear programme. On refusal, he was threatened and warned of dire consequences.
Bhutto’s government was overthrown as a result of a political crisis and Martial Law was imposed on July 5, 1977. Within two years, Bhutto was executed in what said to be a “judicial murder”.
Following these events, the relationship between the two countries revived, particularly after Soviet intervention into Afghanistan. It led to US-backed Afghan jihad and it provided massive financial assistance as well as arms for Afghan Mujahideen. Billions of dollars had come to Pakistan for the nearly decade-long Afghan war.
What happened in the aftermath of 9/11 – US-led coalition attack on Afghanistan – changed the situation, and it led to countrywide anti-US protests in Pakistan, mainly by the religious parties. It also gave rise to otherwise low-key politician till then i.e. Imran Khan.
Pakistan became the “hotbed” for terrorists or terror networks of Taliban and al-Qaeda linked groups. The US attack on Afghanistan in October, 2001, led to a new anti-US wave in Pakistan. This time, the religious parties which unlike in the first Afghan war refused to back the US attack. Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious parties, led the anti-US movement.
MMA also got electoral support, as in 2002 elections it emerged as a powerful group and formed government in troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhaw (KP). It also gave a boost to Imran’s “anti-war” narrative when he termed the military operation against militants in North and South Waziristan, Malakand, Swat as unjustified. It also resulted in his lone electoral victory and for the first time he got elected as MNA.
When Imran came into power in 2018, his focus, beside others, was on resolving the Afghan issue. The controversy over the transfer of the then DG ISI, Lt. General Faiz Hameed in October 2021 was also linked to Afghanistan.
What led to the crisis in March which resulted in a vote of no-confidence against him, Imran blamed the US and believed that since he went to Russia during the Ukraine conflict, the Americans were not happy with him. Thus, they hatched the conspiracy and through this cipher via the then Pakistan’s ambassador to US, Asad Majeed, conspired against his government.
While Imran Khan and his party are still defending the narrative it was that cipher which led to regime change through no-confidence motion, the coalition government of PDM believes these audio leaks exposed the former Prime Minister. And now reports suggest they are considering action against him.
As for Pak-US ties, they would continue to see ups and downs as the Americans know complexity of Pakistan politics, and they also have a global history of keeping ties with both friends and foes.
The writer is a columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang