In 2016, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) leaked 11.5 million files, 2.6 terabytes of data, the Panama Papers. The ruling Russian oligarchs called it a “CIA operation against Vladimir Putin”. In Pakistan, the PMLN called it a ‘CIA conspiracy against Nawaz Sharif’. PM Imran Khan has said that there are “many foreign hands behind the opposition.” Dr Shahbaz Gill, PM’s Special Assistant for Political Communication, is now of the opinion that the US and allies want PM Imran Khan ‘removed because his policies are against their regional and global interests’.
To begin with, two queries: the CIA’s intention and the CIA’s capacity. The CIA has to have both an intention and the capacity for a ‘regime change’-just one won’t do. Question: Why would the CIA want a ‘regime change’ in Pakistan at this stage? Answer: It is all about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC. Is it really? What is CPEC all about? CPEC has five components: energy, transport infrastructure, Gwadar, special economic zones (SEZs) and social sector development. CPEC projects were originally valued at $47 billion and hiked to $62 billion as of 2020.
According to Lijian Zhao, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Chinese Embassy: “The idea of CPEC was initiated by President Asif Ali Zardari and he introduced the prime minister in waiting of that time to Premier Li to discuss the idea of CPEC.” In 2013, an MOU on CPEC was inked by Xu Shao Shi and Shahid Amjad Chaudhry. The signing ceremony was overseen by President Asif Ali Zardari and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. For the record, the CIA did not undertake any ‘regime change’ against the PPP government, the original signatory of CPEC.
On June 5, 2013, Mian Nawaz Sharif became the 20th Prime Minister of Pakistan. Under the PMLN regime a total of 17 ‘CPEC-Energy Priority Projects’, estimated to cost around $15 billion were conceived. Of the 17 projects conceived under PM Nawaz Sharif, 9 with an estimated cost of $8 billion are now ‘operational’; 7 are under construction and the future of Thar Mine Mouth is yet to be determined. For the record, the CIA did not undertake any ‘regime change’ against the PMLN government, the principal implementer of CPEC projects.
On August 18, 2018, Imran Khan became the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan. By that time CPEC Phase II-comprising SEZs, relocation of industries, job creation and agriculture sector modernisation-had kicked in. Under CPEC Phase II the four SEZs were: Rashakai, Dhabeji, Allama Iqbal and Bostan. In September 2018, Razak Dawood, PM’s Adviser for Commerce and Investment, opined: “I think we should put everything on hold for a year, so we can get our act together” adding that “Chinese companies received tax breaks, many breaks and have an undue advantage in Pakistan…..” Over the past 42 months, the timelines of CPEC have really been stretched and implementation stalled. There’s been little or no work on SEZs, relocation of industries, job creation or agriculture sector modernisation.
The CIA did not undertake PPP’s regime change, the government that is the original signatory of CPEC. The CIA did not undertake PMLN’s ‘regime change’, the government that implemented at least $15 billion worth of CPEC projects. Why would the CIA plan a ‘regime change’ of a government under which CPEC stalled? On 2nd February, 2022, the IMF’s Executive Board approved a $1.053 billion disbursement to Pakistan. On February 4, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) received $1.053 tranche of its three-year, $6 billion IMF loans.
At the IMF, the United States has 831,401 votes. If the CIA was planning a ‘regime change’ in March 2022 why would the IMF disburse $1.053 billion in February 2022? In February 2022, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) were Pakistan’s largest development partners with disbursements of $529 million and $461 million, respectively.
At the World Bank, the United States has 2,925,790 votes. If the CIA was planning a ‘regime change’ in March 2022 why would the World Bank disburse $529 million in February 2022? At the ADB, the United States has subscribed 15.5 percent of the total capital and controls 12.75 percent of the votes. If the CIA was planning a ‘regime change’ in March 2022 why would the ADB disburse $461 million in February 2022? Does the CIA really has the capacity to contact, persuade and recruit 172 MNAs in the National Assembly of Pakistan for a potential ‘regime change’? Has the CIA now also recruited Jahangir Khan Tareen, Abdul Aleem Khan, Nadeem Afzal Chan and Yar Muhammad Rind?