by BA and Venkatesh Sundaram
Image: Protests in Pakistan against regime Change
One of the unexpected outcomes of the February 2022 military action in Ukraine by Russia was the collapse of the Imran Khan Government in Pakistan in April 2022. At the time of the invasion, Mr. Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan had stated that Pakistan would not back the western powers-led condemnation of Russia. In fact, he made a state visit to Moscow. Furthermore, he had suggested that Pakistan may continue trade with Russia and would not support the sanctions against Russia sponsored by the US and backed by all the western allies including European Union and the UK.
This sounded the death-knell for his government, and Mr. Khan even publicly stated that he had been threatened by the US that his government would be brought down unless he backed off from his position. At the same time many of his coalition partners immediately threatened that they would not continue to support his government and the opposition parties planned to table a no-confidence vote. In the backdrop of these, Mr. Khan even suggested that his country would pull out of dollar trade, which was certainly not music to the ears of the US imperialists. As the events folded and it was clear that he would lose the vote on the floor of Parliament, Mr. Khan authorised an `autogolpe’ suspending Parliament. However, the Supreme Court of Pakistan reinstated the Parliament and Mr. Khan lost the vote. Speculation was rife in the media that it is the `powerful’ Pakistan Army that would call the shots, and that Mr. Khan would lose favour of the Army and would therefore lose the vote.
All the above makes a plot for a thrilling pot-boiler and a racy novel with intrigue and fast moving action, with colourful characters of various types, interesting soundbites and speeches, and speculation and gossip, most of which is sponsored by various sections of the ruling circles themselves. But what lies at the heart of all these events, and indeed of other events in one of the most populous and politically significant countries in the region, and the second largest neighbour of India. What are the forces that shape the politics of this country? What lessons are to be learnt from the history of the country?
Without looking very far, it is clear that Pakistan is ruled by a handful of wealthy families. Most of these are also well-ensconced in the west with families ties in UK and the USA. From the earliest days following the formation of Pakistan, it is clear that the country continued to lie in the sphere controlled by Britain, with a new Constitution drawn up on the basis of the Government of India Act. of 1935 and by a Constituent Assembly that preserved many of the features of colonial rule. All their administration, instruments of state, courts of law continued the colonial tradition. Thus Pakistan, from the beginning, was not able to shake off the shackles of the colonial influence on its institutions – political, legislative, administrative, and more.
US imperialists also recognised the vast potential of Pakistan in helping to fulfil their global imperialist aims, with the strategic location to the south of the erstwhile Soviet Union and also bordering China. Over the decades the penetration of all political, administrative, and armed forces institutions of Pakistan by the US was completed, by large amounts of `aid’, military and civilian and the backing of specific ruling families. The US ensured that the Pakistan ruling circles would dance to their tunes, be it for support in Afghanistan, or post 9/11 events. Few major events in Pakistan of any significance could take place without explicit permission from the US.
The blatant interference in the affairs of Pakistan had its bad effects on the lives of the people. Hence, over the years, anger against the US imperialists has been growing, and manifesting in massive protests across the country too. Thus, when ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke out against the interference of US imperialists, he was expressing the sentiments of a large section of common people.
During the course of it’s’ history, Pakistan has also seen periods of martial law – rule by the military. There is an impression that even now, it is the army which “calls the shots”. While the army is no doubt relatively powerful, like the other institutions of Pakistan, it too is heavily under the influence of the US imperialists. Thus, whether nominally ruled by an ‘elected’ government or by military rulers for brief periods of time, it was always unfortunately the US imperialists, and not the army – which “called the shots”.
In the post 9/11 world, Pakistan continued to suffer from intrigues of various big powers colliding, with seemingly random terrorist activities, bombings of mosques, killings of Shia minorities, drone attacks in Baluchistan, crushing of the national question in that region to name a few examples. The straw man in most of these being that it is the Pakistan Army that runs the show. Be that as it may, the events surrounding the sad fate of the Imran Khan government shows that all the Institutions in Pakistan, from the Government to the Parliament, to the Courts of Law to the Army do not have any real independence.
The lesson to be derived from the experience of Pakistan is that the influence of the US in the internal affairs of any country are totally detrimental to the people of the country. It is a lesson for all who are interested in solutions of the political problems of their countries and of the peoples of the world. There has to be resolute opposition to any imperialist penetration, and it must be realised that US imperialism indeed continues to be the most rapacious and dangerous of all. Resolute opposition to imperialism and US imperialism is necessary for the peoples of the world to be able to love their lives the way they wish, without numerous intrigues and the ever-hanging threat of war.