- Web Master
- June 11, 2019
By G.N.R. Chaudhary
The grand Jalsa (gathering) at Parade Ground, Islamabad on March 27 indicates Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is both angry and almost certain of his fate that awaits him in the ensuing days. His speech clearly indicated that he smelled foul play and conspiracy by both the powerful GHQ and the foreign powers who are helping PPP and PML(N). He was also displeased with US President Joe Biden for not calling him up ever. Recently, Khan fired salvos at a group of 22 major nations, from the EU, NATO, Japan and Australia, for jointly requesting Pakistan to condemn Russia on the Ukraine issue. Khan felt Pakistanis have the right to remain neutral.
Within a few days, however, he said: “only animals remain neutral” and criticized the all powerful Pakistani Army for advising him to avoid using slurs against the opposition leaders who are leading a no-trust motion against his government in the Parliament.
Imran’s speech on March 27 in a huge rally was full of anger against Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif as he informed the crowd that these parties with foreign assistance are trying to topple his government. While he tried to compare the situation with that of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was unceremoniously removed by Military Dictator Ziaul Haq, he tried to convince the cheering crowd that he too, like Bhutto, wanted to pursue an independent foreign policy like India. There is little doubt that he is desperate and is living merely on Chinese support. However, the Chinese are openly meddling with the domestic politics in Pakistan.
Newspaper reports from Pakistan suggest senior Chinese envoys are meeting the Opposition leaders, army bosses and factions within the ruling coalition. The model is similar to what China did to Nepal to keep Nepal Communist Party together, in 2020. On March 13, the deputy head of the Chinese Mission in Pakistan, Pang Chunxue, met the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. PML-Q is a minority partner in the Khan government and may hold the key in the no-trust vote. According to a statement by the party, Chunxue discussed the “political situation” and “issues of mutual interest”. The envoy was quoted saying that “China wants political and economic stability in Pakistan.” This shows that a totalitarian China doesn’t have much regard for the rules of the civilized world.
In 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, Beijing didn’t stop at buying support for their puppet government in Kathmandu; they were also grabbing Nepalese land and were muzzling the Nepalese press. The media was barred even from referring to the origin of the covid-19 virus in China.
The big question is: will this protect the interest of either Pakistan or China? Beijing is working on a single-minded interest to utilize Pakistan's geography and its government for its benefit. The much-publicized Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had more to do with China than Pakistan. However, despite all the propaganda aired through the pro-Chinese 'Global Times', CPEC is suffering.
From corruption, anti-CPEC movement in Balochistan to attack on Chinese nationals – the project has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Moreover, the growing uncertainty in Afghanistan, the catastrophic Taliban rule and the rise of anti-Taliban factions are potent enough to cause more trouble in the days to come. All these mean the fund flow to CPEC that the Imran Khan government was so zealously banking on will remain elusive. The army-backed contractor lobby in Pakistan has already sucked good money out of it, and if the fund flow recedes, they will have less interest in CPEC. However, Khan has no alternatives. He has burnt all the bridges with the democratic world and is now completely dependent on Chinese support, whatever it might be.
In the past, Pakistan was surviving on US aid and loans from the US-backed multilateral organizations like the IMF. The US aid has stopped since 2018. Pakistan took 22 loans from the IMF in the past and was undergoing review for the 23rd loan.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan economy went bankrupt. Since Khan took over in 2018, retail inflation has been skyrocketing. That is despite the low crude price and low global inflation for the majority of the period. Except January 2021, the inflation had been above 8 percent over the last two years, crossed the 14 percent mark once, and has been hovering at 10-13 percent for the last six months. The inept government has a little source of dollars except for remittances, and needs fresh borrowings to repay past loans. Even the remittance economy is under the scanner for its potential link to terrorist activities. Pakistan has been on the grey list of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since June 2018 for failing to check money laundering, leading to terror financing. The position remains unchanged since.
In short, Pakistan is living dangerously. Its economy is in shambles and it has zero credibility as a borrower. People are suffering from high inflation. To hold on to its fast-eroding popularity, the Khan government is offering huge food subsidies going against the IMF prescription. In the Islamabad gathering on March 27, Khan boasted his government’s pro-people initiatives that led to cut in diesel prices by Rs 10 a litre and a resurgent economy with huge production of rice, wheat, potatoes and maize.
Living on Chinese support, Khan is now doing whatever Beijing wants from him. So much so that his Government, the most prominent US ally outside NATO, is criticizing the US and is allowing its land to be used by the Chinese.
Clearly, Khan is steering Pakistan to a dead end where the US may take punitive action. Considering Pakistan’s elites, including army officials, who are hugely invested in the West; any such possibility will create serious upheaval at home. With 50 lawmakers of his party reportedly under the custody of ISI similar to many “enforced disappearances” of Balochs , Pashtuns and Sindhi nationalists , Khan will not be able to save his chair unless some miracle happens . But it will come at a great cost to Pakistan. And, China has to share part of the blame for disaster and anarchy in Pakistan.