Analyzing American-Orchestrated Regime Change Crisis in Pakistan

Pakistan has just successfully thwarted what Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed was an American-orchestrated regime change attempt against him after the country’s parliament rejected the opposition’s no-confidence motion against the country’s incumbent leader on the basis that it represented foreign interference in its internal affairs. The embattled premier accused the U.S. of plotting to overthrow him as punishment for his independent foreign policy: particularly, the rapid rapprochement with America’s Russian rival that he has overseen to since assuming office in 2018. Prime Minister Khan also said that Washington was upset at his decision to visit Moscow in late February.

According to the Pakistani leader, he is in possession of a letter confirming this regime change attempt against him and even threats to his own life. Reports suggested that the information came from his country’s Embassy in the U.S. after an American official informed their Pakistani counterparts that bilateral ties won’t improve as long as Prime Minister Khan remains in office. It was also allegedly at that time, in early March, that the message was conveyed that his trip to Russia was unacceptable. Reports also claim that Donald Lu, the previously unnamed American official, predicted the no-confidence motion that was tabled the day afterwards, adding credence to suspicions that it was orchestrated by the U.S.

Objectively speaking, there are genuine reasons why some Pakistanis are upset with their Prime Minister. The economy has taken a heavy hit over the past few years due to the consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the partisan divide between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on the one hand and opposition parties Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PMLN) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on the other have widened as a result of these economic troubles. There are even some who speculate that Prime Minister Khan didn’t legitimately win the 2018 elections but was illegally placed into power by the country’s influential military-intelligence establishment.

These preexisting socio-political conditions facilitated the U.S. alleged regime change campaign against Prime Minister Khan by covering up for the foreign hand that he claims was behind the failed no-confidence vote against him. The U.S. has traditionally exerted immense influence over Pakistani affairs, although it has significantly lessened in recent years under the country’s incumbent patriotic leadership. Still, nobody should doubt that the United States still has vast networks of influence across Pakistan, including among its opposition parties and within members of the permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”), who might sympathize with the U.S. for whatever their reason may be.

Be that as it is, observers would do well to note that the powerful military remained neutral during this regime change crisis. It did not interfere like many expected them to do. That is because Pakistan’s fledgling democracy is indeed becoming much more mature than in the years past, though it still has a lot of work to do. Nevertheless, it is impressive that this regime change process has thus far played out independently of the military. This institution is deeply respected by the Pakistanis for keeping their ultra-diverse country together during difficult times and in the face of quite serious regional challenges to its existence. Speculation about its support for one or another side strongly influences popular perceptions.

As it stands, Pakistan remains politically divided due to the unresolved partisan disputes between the ruling party and the opposition. New elections are scheduled to be held within 90 days of the parliament rejecting the opposition’s no-confidence vote on 3 April. The National Assembly was dissolved, with Prime Minister Khan appointed as caretaker until then. He also suggested that some members of the opposition might be investigated for sedition, considering his claims that they conspired with the U.S. to overthrow him as punishment for his independent foreign policy. About that, some words should be said about Pakistan’s international vision under his leadership and why it allegedly upset the U.S.

The newly promulgated National Security Policy from December prohibits participation in bloc politics of the sort that the U.S. was allegedly pressuring Pakistan to practice by demanding that it publicly condemns Russia for its ongoing special military operation in Ukraine and join the West’s anti-Russian sanctions. Furthermore, this policy-making document institutionalized the concept of geo-economics with a particular focus on Central Asia. It specifically declares that “Pakistan’s geo-economic pivot is focused on enhancing trade and economic ties through connectivity that links Central Asia to our warm waters.” Pakistan’s multipolar geo-economic interests are therefore poised to converge with those of Russia.

This isn’t just speculation but a credible prediction predicated upon February 2021’s agreement to build a Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan railway that can informally be called PAKAFUZ after each participating country’s first letters. It represents the de facto northern expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), which will ultimately connect the Russian and Pakistani economies via Central Asia and Afghanistan. It perfectly aligns with Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP)—Moscow’s grand strategy for comprehensive integration of the supercontinent across the 21st century and accelerating multipolarity.

From the U.S. typical zero-sum perspective, the fast-moving Russian-Pakistani rapprochement and the impending convergence of their geo-economic interests in the Eurasian Heartland represents a latent threat to America’s declining unipolar hegemony. Therefore, Washington fears the long-term political consequences of its former Pakistani “vassal state” more confidently flexing its strategic autonomy in this geopolitically important part of the supercontinent, especially with respect to PAKAFUZ—potentially facilitating Russia’s overland access to South Asia. The U.S. has an interest in sabotaging Russia’s planned reorientation to non-Western countries following the recent sanctions.

It therefore follows that Pakistan would be targeted for regime change due to its impressively pragmatic policies with Russia that are mutually beneficial, not aimed against any third parties like America or India, and intended to advance their shared multipolar geo-economic goals. Seeing as how Prime Minister Khan’s visionary leadership is responsible for the comprehensive development of relations with Russia in recent years and the fact that he bravely defied American pressure to visit Moscow in late February despite the onset of his host’s special military operation in Ukraine during that time, it should be obvious to any objective observer why the U.S. scrambled to replace him as soon as possible.

To that end, it exploited preexisting partisan tensions within the Pakistani society to orchestrate an American-friendly opposition’s no-confidence vote against him on the pretext of holding him accountable for his country’s economic difficulties, which was really tabled to punish him for his independent foreign policy towards Russia on behalf of their suspected U.S. patrons. This foreign-backed regime change plot failed to overthrow him due to the diligent decision of Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri to reject this proposal on the basis that it represents unconstitutional interference in internal affairs by a foreign power in violation of Article 5 of the Pakistani Constitution.

Looking ahead, Pakistan will need to purge illegal foreign influence from its democracy through a prioritized commencement of counterintelligence and other related investigations into this failed American regime change plot. The country must ensure that its upcoming elections are free and fair, which entails bringing politically compromised elements of the opposition to justice for their role in advancing the interests of a foreign power at the expense of their own country’s objective interests. The opposition will likely try to provoke Color Revolution unrest—but they are expected to be thwarted by the security establishment if their plot begins to threaten national security. They will probably go on to claim that Prime Minister Khan is carrying out a so-called “anti-democratic witch hunt” against them.

That’s why it is so important for the incumbent government to encourage the security services to publicly reveal as much information about this plot and their associated investigations as possible in order to prove beyond doubt that it not only exists, but that their counterintelligence operations aren’t a partisan ploy in his support. Pakistan’s democracy narrowly survived this latest threat that could have plunged the country into chaos had it succeeded, potentially also threatening its very existence when one considers the extremely difficult regional security situation that the country has had to confront for decades. For the time being, Pakistan’s foreign policy is expected to remain independent, multipolar, and free from U.S. influence.

From our partner RIAC

Andrew Korybko
Andrew Korybko
Andrew Korybko is a political analyst, journalist and regular contributor to several online journals, as well as a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Predictions at the People’s Friendship University of Russia. He has published various works in the field of Hybrid Wars, including “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach to Regime Change” and “The Law of Hybrid War: Eastern Hemisphere”.