The ouster of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan following a US-orchestrated “lawfare”-driven regime change operation has polarized that country’s society like never before. The formerly ruling PTI unprecedentedly proved through the spontaneous nationwide rallies in his support on Sunday that its patriotic, pro-sovereignty, and national security message has popular appeal despite differing from The Establishment’s. Pakistanis are split over the legitimacy of these developments, as is the international community. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova extended credence to the former premier’s description of events as a US-backed regime change against him plotted as punishment for his independent foreign policy while the US itself predictably denied any role in what just happened.
Regardless of whichever side of the divide one might be on, it’s useful to imagine how the West would react if Russia had just pulled a Pakistani-style regime change against a wayward ally exactly as the US is accused of doing to Pakistan. This thought exercise is intended to expose the political double standards that characterize the New Cold War and within which Pakistan has unfortunately become an object of geopolitical competition despite its newly promulgated National Security Policy adhering to a non-bloc policy. The point in drawing attention to all of this is to add further credence to the former Prime Minister’s claims that the US was indeed behind his ouster otherwise one would expect that declining unipolar hegemon and its allies to react the same way to what just happened as they’d be expected do in this exercise.
To begin, the admittedly imperfect comparison that the reader is being asked to imagine is what the US-led West’s response would be if Russia just carried out a Pakistani-style “lawfare” regime change in Kazakhstan. Just like Pakistan became a “wayward” American ally after flexing an independent foreign policy aimed at balancing between Great Powers by improving ties with its traditional American partner’s Russian rival, Kazakhstan is also doing the same vis-à-vis Russia’s traditional American and Turkish ones in pursuit of the same sort of strategic autonomy. That South Asian state is a “Major Non-NATO Ally” while the Central Asian one is Russia’s formal mutual defense ally through the CSTO. Despite this difference, both are still very close security partners of the US and Russia respectively.
Pakistan is pursuing the multipolar flagship projects of the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP) and PAKAFUZ (which refers to February 2021’s agreement to build a Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan railway) with Russia while Kazakhstan hosts American energy companies and cooperates closely with Turkish logistics ones on what Ankara describes as its Middle Corridor for connecting that West Asian Great Power to China via Central Asia. Although both countries in these examples have the sovereign right to promote economic partnerships with other countries that aren’t aimed against any third party’s interests like their traditional partner’s, it’s understandable why each traditional partner might feel a bit uncomfortable about this even if those concerns aren’t objectively justified.
Now imagine that Turkey militarily intervened in its local Syrian allies’ support on the basis of protecting those rebel forces from the genocide that Ankara claimed that Russian-backed Damascus was waging against them for years already and in order to also ensure the integrity of its national security red lines in the region that it accused Moscow of crossing, thus prompting a Russian-Turkish proxy war in that Arab Republic. That’s the closest comparison that one can imagine to Russia intervening in Ukraine throughout the course of its ongoing special military operation there in support of its local Donbass allies and in partial pursuit of ensuring the integrity of its own national security red lines that it claimed that the US and its partners in Kiev were crossing in that country.
In the run-up to this proxy war, imagine that the Kazakh President was supposed to visit Turkey but it was then later revealed by the now-ousted Foreign Minister that the Russian National Security Advisor called his counterpart and demanded that he cancel the trip. After refusing to do so, the Kazakh leader went to Ankara anyway and then declined to condemn his Turkish host, opting instead to practice a policy of principled neutrality in line with his country’s newly promulgated National Security Policy and its associated prohibition on bloc politics. Following his trip, a prominent Russian Foreign Ministry official then informs Kazakh diplomats in Moscow that ties can’t improve unless the incumbent leaves office, hinting that the opposition will soon launch a no-confidence motion against him as punishment.
That ends up coming to pass literally a day later, after which the incumbent leader becomes aware of this undiplomatic threat and begins publicly discussing it in the hopes of convincing patriotic members of the opposition not to play into Russia’s regime change hands. Instead of postponing their motion, they double down and gaslight by claiming that it’s impossible to imagine that Russia of all countries would ever meddle in their affairs, let alone try to overthrow their government. This narrative is then maximally amplified by all of Russia’s agents of influence in that country’s media and abroad, even surprisingly finding some sympathy among members of the Kazakh Establishment, whose institutions then decide to remain neutral amid what the incumbent claims is a regime change plot against him.
In a last-ditch attempt to protect the state sovereignty that he sincerely believes is threatened by his traditional Russian partner, the Kazakh President’s parliamentary ally dismisses the opposition’s no-confidence motion but then has his decision overturned by the Supreme Court days later prior to the embattled leader ultimately being deposed through this parliamentary process that weekend. Less than 24 hours later, the ousted leader’s supporters rally nationwide in the largest demonstrations across the country in decades, yet the pro-Russian media that dominates that country conspicuously ignores these protests. A day later, a pro-Russian official who’s presently being investigated for money laundering is elected the next president after the opposition resigns from parliament in protest.
To make matters even more scandalous, this newly elected Kazakh leader (who’s presently out on bail) curiously has his money laundering indictment deferred for a few weeks upon entering office as his country’s next president exactly as just happened with Shehbaz Sharif. Then, an influential member of the now-ruling party predicts that an earlier ousted pro-Russian leader who’s currently abroad in Russian-allied Belarus where he was sentenced in absentia for corruption and is the new leader’s brother will return to Kazakhstan next month just like Mian Javed Latif predicted will soon happen with Nawaz Sharif. As all of this is happening, Russia insists that it has no role in events and respects its traditional partner’s democratic and legal processes, which is echoed by its allies across the world.
There should be absolutely no doubt whatsoever in any sincerely objective person’s mind that the US would condemn this sequence of events as a Russian-orchestrated “lawfare”-driven regime change and most likely refuse to recognize the pro-Russian replacement government, especially after the formerly ruling party resigned from parliament in protest against what they described as an “imported government”. Washington would almost certainly call for free, fair, and early elections, perhaps even sanctioning the incoming Russian-backed authorities and probably also Moscow itself. Its allies across the world, especially those media outlets under its influence, would cover this event non-stop and speculate about the threat to democracy that it poses to the larger region.
The US is never going to react that way towards Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif, and whoever else they end up appointing to replace the former government’s cabinet posts. Its double standards in complete contravention to how it’d be expected to respond to the scenario of Russia pulling a Pakistani-style regime change in Kazakhstan speak to its interests in legitimizing those new authorities in support of its own geostrategic goals at the expense of its self-proclaimed “democracy” and “rule of law” values that it insincerely claims to hold so dear. Its “lawfare”-driven regime change operation against Pakistan was a Hybrid War means towards the end of restoring its influence over that wayward ally as punishment for its independent foreign policy and should be recognized for what it is in the interests of historical truth.
By Andrew Korybko Via https://oneworld.press/?module=articles&action=view&id=2730