Extra-constitutional ousters

May 26, 2024

Nawaz Sharif accuses Imran Khan of backstabbing him

Extra-constitutional ousters


hroughout the country’s history, London, the capital of the United Kingdom, has been a refuge for Pakistani politicians in their exile. It has also acquired the reputation of a hub of conspiracies as one prime minister after another has pointed an accusing finger in the direction after their removal from power.

Echoes of London Plans have doing the rounds in Pakistani politics since 2012. The plans were allegedly hatched at different times against the Pakistan Peoples Party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf governments.

On May 18, Nawaz Sharif brought the spotlight back to the London Plan that, he claimed, had brought about the end of his premiership. Addressing the Central Working Committee of the PML-N, Nawaz accused Imran Khan and Tahir-ul Qadri of having conspired against his government with Lt Gen Zaheer-ul Islam (retired). “Upon coming to power in 2013, the first thing I did was go and visit Imran at his residence in Banigala to reach an agreement on a working relationship for the sake of the country. Despite the understanding, Imran Khan went to London, along with some other political figures and a plot was hatched, after which street protests were launched in the country upon the PTI founder’s return. I was left befuddled by the development. I should have been informed and told about whatever the PTI’s reservations were. I visit you and you stab me in the back after promising cooperation. Then you start agitation in Islamabad’s D-Chowk?”

Before dealing with the PML-N leader’s claims, let us first look back at the London Plan that started this all.

In 2012, Minhaj-ul Quran chairman Dr Tahir-ul Qadri returned to Pakistan from London and led a long march. This scribe interviewed him before this march from Lahore to Islamabad. The interview was going smoothly but when I asked Dr Qadri about reports of his meeting with some aides of Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha (retired) in London and telephonic contact with Gen Pasha himself, Dr Qadri strongly denied the reports. “You talk about my meetings with army officials. Let me be very clear, I have never even spoken to an army official on the phone or otherwise.”

This scribe then reminded him about the evening of October 12, 1999, when all communication was suspended after the army takeover. On the same evening, Qadri had held an urgent press conference at the Lahore Press Club where he was about to start speaking when an assistant entered the Nisar Usmani Hall, carrying a cordless phone in his hand and said: “Dr Sahib, there is a phone call for you from the GHQ.” Qadri had then grabbed the phone and left the room. After three or four minutes, he had returned to his seat and told the media that he had received a phone call from a general who had told him that the army had overthrown Nawaz Sharif’s government. This scribe and a couple of others had pointed out that there was no cell phone service and that even landlines were not working in most areas. He had answered that “This is a special phone.”

After recalling this incident, this writer asked Dr Qadri: “Who did you talk to that evening then?” After hearing the question, Dr Qadri said: “I am feeling tired. We have to end this interview here.”

He had then led a long march to Islamabad and staged a sit-in at D Chowk for a couple of days before the PPP government sent emissaries to him. The team led by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had signed an agreement with him. He had then concluded his long march and left for Canada a few days later.

Now, for the second London Plan.

According to the PML-N, PTI founder Imran Khan and Dr Tahir-ul Qadri hatched a plot against the government in connivance with Gen Zaheer-ul Islam in London in 2014. Dr Qadri has denied having met any army personnel.

Extra-constitutional ousters

In 2012, Minhaj-ul Quran chairman Dr Tahir-ul Qadri returned to Pakistan, led a long march to Islamabad and staged a sit-in at D Chowk. The PPP government sent a negotiating team, led by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, that signed an agreement with him. Dr Qadri then concluded his agitation and left for Canada.

Nawaz Sharif was referring to this second London Plan while addressing his party’s meeting.

Extra-constitutional ousters

Imran Khan has consistently denied having met Qadri in London. However, Khurram Nawaz Gandapur, a close aide to Dr Qadri and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi admitted to such meetings in 2018. Gandapur admitted in a TV show that the London Plan was a fact. He revealed that Dr Qadri had met Khan back then. Chaudhry Shujaat and Parvez Elahi were also in London in the first week of June 2014 to cobble an alliance to topple the Sharif government. Gandapur had argued that there was nothing wrong in forming such alliances.

However, Imran Khan has always denied being part of such a meeting in London. “There’s nothing to hide. There was no need to hold any meetings in London. We could have met here. I don’t need to go to London for this purpose.”

Former PTI president Javed Hashmi, who left the party during the long march, also confirmed the London meetings. He said that Khan and Dr Qadri had held meetings in London and remained in constant contact through coordinators.

The London Plan achieved nothing beyond keeping the PML-N government under pressure. In the end, Nawaz Sharif was ousted from power through court orders which, the PML-N, believes were a part of the London Plan.

A third London Plan was alleged by Imran Khan while talking with newspersons in Adiala Jail in January 2024. He alleged that the apex court was operating in accordance with the so-called London Plan meant to corner his party and to end the cases against Nawaz Sharif.

“Under the London Plan, I am to remain in jail, the PTI is to fall apart and all cases against Nawaz Sharif are to be dropped.”

Some other PTI leaders have also stated that the PTI government was removed through the no-confidence motion under a London Plan. Some of them blame Gen Qamar Bajwa (retired) for the plan.

“We call for accountability of those who destroyed and ruined Pakistan,” Nawaz said. Reminding them of the economic performance of his government, Nawaz asked the nation which political party had best served them better. He said the people should think about these matters before cast their votes.

“I have the right to ask my people this question. What was Nawaz Sharif’s performance like and what was that of his opponents like? I have the little slight complaint with the people. A prime minister is removed in a false case for not receiving a salary from his son and the people watch in silence. This is not right.”

Hopefully, Pakistan won’t see another London Plan in the near future. It cannot afford more long marches, street protests and indefensible convictions of political leaders.

The writer is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and analyst. His X handle: @BukhariMubasher

Extra-constitutional ousters