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Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan under fire for taking U-turn on regime change narrative

Islamabad, May 31: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has come under severe criticism from his political opponents for giving a clean chit to the US and other Western countries on their alleged involvement in the ouster of his government in April 2022 and instead putting the entire blame on friend-turned-foe former Army Chief General (Retd.) Qamar Javed Bajwa.

In an interview with journalist Mehdi Hasan, Khan retracted from his earlier stance where he had slammed the US for orchestrating a regime change in Pakistan and being part of a conspiracy along with Bajwa and opposition political parties to ensure the implementation of a successful Vote of No Confidence (VONC) against him in the Parliament on April 9, 2022.

Khan, after two years of his government’s ouster, now believes that General Bajwa is solely to be blamed for the entire episode. “After 11 months in prison, I am certain that this ordeal was orchestrated solely by General Bajwa. He meticulously planned and executed this scheme, presenting himself as a deceitful figure, creating lies and false narratives to cause both national and international chaos – all to secure his extension,” the former PM said while responding to written questions sent to him in prison by Hasan. “I hold no one else responsible,” Khan added.

His comments, however, have not gone down well with several analysts and political leaders in the country. “Imran Khan is a liar. He carried out a massive public campaign against the US, blaming Washington for ousting his government and gave many reasons why they wanted him out,” said Talal Chaudhry, senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N). “He had claimed he was ousted for not giving bases to the US forces and for going to Russia. He also claimed that the then US Under Secretary Donald Lu met the Pakistani Ambassador in the US and warned him of the consequences if the vote of no confidence against Khan was unsuccessful. And today, ‘Einstein’ Khan says the US had nothing to do with his ouster.

That means his whole campaign after the ouster was based on a fake narrative and lies,” added Chaudhry. Experts also believe that Khan’s latest statement is part of his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) making attempts to normalise ties with the West. “It is known to all that PTI has hired lobbying companies in the US to activate its contacts with the US government. And that is why Imran Khan is backtracking from his previous claim of US-led regime change. But the fact is that in 2022, Imran Khan addressed over 80 public gatherings on the same narrative. It was the most popular anti-establishment, anti-government and anti-US narrative at the time,” said political analyst Rizwan Razi.

“Khan raised popular slogans like ‘absolutely not’ and ‘are we slaves’ slamming the US and the West for hatching a conspiracy against his government and teaming up with the military establishment and opposition parties to oust his government. He would call the military establishment ‘janwar’ (animals). Back then, it was the popular political narrative because it was useful for his political resistance. Today, he wants the US intervention for his own benefit. How blatantly convenient!” said Razi. Imran Khan is currently serving a jail term in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi and is staring at a long legal battle with tonnes of cases piled up against him.

Khan is also among the most popular leaders of Pakistan with a support base spread across the country and abroad, majorly because of his regime change narrative, anti-military stance and refusal to team up with his political opponents, who he claims have taken power through an illegitimate polling process in February, this year by stealing his party’s mandate. “This government lacks legitimacy,” Khan said, adding that the world should not ignore the struggle for democracy and the “plight” of the people in Pakistan.

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