0758 GMT December 03, 2022
These days Pakistan has become the scene of disputes among different political parties. Prime Minister Imran Khan has dissolved parliament after his party lost the majority, and has found that many members of allied parties would vote against him in a no-confidence vote motion. And now we should wait for about three months until the elections determine the new government in the country. We have talked about the factors behind the new political crisis in this country with Nozar Shafiei, an expert on subcontinent affairs and a professor at the University of Tehran. Shafiei believes that U.S. interference, which is aimed at putting a distance between Pakistan and China, is the main reason behind the new crisis in Pakistan.
IRAN DAILY: Imran Khan's opponents have exacerbated the situation for him, forcing the premier to dissolve parliament. What is your analysis of the new political crisis in the country?
NOZAR SHAFIEI: It was already clear that there was some kind of political instability in Pakistan. Since 1948, there have been few prime ministers who managed to complete their term. Usually, this political instability is caused by internal and external factors. The internal factor is disagreements between political and religious groups as well as military officials on certain issues. And the external factor is related to efforts by major powers, including China and the United States, and to a lesser extent Russia, to influence Pakistan.
It seems that Imran Khan is interested in having close relations with China.
While domestic factors have played a role in the creation of the current crisis, the main reason is foreign pressure. There is currently an ideological, political and security conflict between China and the U.S. as the two poles of power in the world. Some countries are considered a strategic power, and some are a strategic axis in the world. China and the U.S. are the two poles of power, while Pakistan is the strategic axis. Beijing and Washington need to dominate or influence different strategic axes in a bid to win political conflicts. Pakistan, which has been a strategic ally of the U.S. until recently, is an important country that shares a border with China and has good relations with this country. So, the Americans are trying to restore Pakistan’s position to what it was during the Cold War, when the country was one of the key states for the U.S. to confront the former Soviet Union. Now, U.S. policy is to keep away countries including Pakistan, Myanmar and North Korea from China. The United States wants these countries to either embrace Washington, or at least be neutral.
Do you think that the Americans are employing democratic methods, or are using other methods such as fomenting a coup in Pakistan?
Washington is trying to direct the developments through democratic processes. It has used parliamentary mechanisms and persuaded the representatives of the political parties to oppose Imran Khan in a bid to oust him from power. The front that Imran Khan had been leading no longer enjoys its previous cohesion, and rivals have managed to strip Imran Khan of his majority in parliament. In such circumstances, Imran Khan was forced to dissolve parliament. So, for the U.S., beneficial methods are those that are less expensive. Of course, Washington uses different strategies in different countries to make changes in governments.
Now, there is a 90-day period until new elections. How would the situation be during this time, calm or tense?
The Pakistan military which considers itself in charge of protecting internal and external security, will forcefully confront any unrest that is contrary to the country’s national security. If the country has been the scene of unrest and conflict in the past, it is because the army itself was eager for continuing that situation, or it was able to control the situation. Therefore, the scope of political conflict is limited, and the army does not allow it to go too far. If the unrest goes beyond the norm, the military will directly or indirectly take over power. Under new circumstances, marches and rallies are expected to be held in the country, but the army will surely control them.
Do the developments indicate an end to Imran Khan’s political career?
Imran Khan will try to shape the country’s public opinion by highlighting the foreign threat. In other words, he will lead the people in his desired direction by emphasizing Pakistan’s independence and U.S. interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs. However, Imran Khan seems to have been weakened. The dissolution of parliament shows that he no longer enjoys his previous political position, especially after the army withdrew its support for him. In the last election, the army supported Imran Khan, whereas now it has declared neutrality, which means that the army no longer supports him. Thus, the military and pro-Western parties, like the Muslim League, are in conflict with Imran Khan and support close ties with the United States. The Americans are now putting pressure on Imran Khan through these elements, namely, the army and the political current known as “Sharif”.
Do you think the current political crisis will have an impact on the region, Pakistan’s neighbors in particular?
Pakistan’s situation cannot be analyzed regardless of regional and international conditions. We are in a historical situation where new polarizations are taking place. Countries are now divided into three categories: Countries that are allied with the U.S.; countries which are allied with China; and non-aligned countries. In the meantime, countries that are geographically close to China or the United States, and have a strategic position, will unfortunately have difficult situations. The overt aspect of the developments taking place in the world is similar to what is happening in Ukraine, while the covert aspect is similar to what is taking place in Pakistan. The country is now facing intensifying internal and external pressure.