Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted a video clip on Monday of US analyst Rebecca Grant telling Fox News during a recent interview that his country should cut ties with Russia and distance itself from China following its scandalous change of government in early April. Part of his message included the claim that “this video should remove all doubts as to why a democratically elected PM & his govt were removed.” According to him, his ouster was the result of a US-orchestrated regime change as punishment for his independent foreign policy – particularly its Russian dimension – while his opponents insist that it was constitutional and therefore purely legal.
This latest development serves to further polarize Pakistani society ahead of the former Prime Minister’s planned nationwide march on the capital of Islamabad at the end of this month as part of the new freedom movement that he declared during one of the country’s largest-ever rallies late last month. Those who support him likely believe that Grant’s rant is evidence of the conspiracy that they sincerely believe was hatched against their country’s former leader while his critics claim that it’s just a random talking head’s opinion that shouldn’t be taken seriously. Both sides are right but they’re also wrong too, which will now be explained.
Americans have the constitutionally enshrined freedom of speech even though it’s imperfectly applied and sometimes denied to them for political reasons. Nevertheless, anyone appearing on a live TV interview can technically say whatever they want, including their personal opinion. Grant’s interpretation of events is that former Prime Minister Khan was punished by the opposition for what she regards as his anti-American policies that included improving ties with Russia and maintaining already excellent ones with China. For these reasons and from her understanding of American interests, the US hopes that the new authorities reverse those policies as a first step to improving their troubled ties.
Although it’s only her personal opinion, it’s an accurate assessment of the US’ objectively existing zero-sum policies towards its partners, who it always mistreats as “junior” ones due to the influence that the discredited supremacist ideology of “American Exceptionalism” has on its policymakers. Despite being aware that Americans have the constitutionally enshrined freedom of speech however imperfectly it’s applied, some Pakistanis might have naturally projected their country’s own contemporary media environment onto the US’ to speculate that her remarks might have been rehearsed or at the very least tacitly approved of by the American authorities before they were made.
To explain, practically all major Pakistani media outlets conspicuously ignored former Prime Minister Khan’s rallies last month which turned out to be some of the largest in their country’s history. This prompted speculation that the new authorities played a role in those nominally independent companies’ decision to not cover them. There have also been previous concerns about government meddling in the media too that long predate Pakistan’s scandalous change of government. The presence of these problems on many people’s minds in recent days might have preconditioned them to subconsciously project their country’s media issues onto the US to imagine what they did about Grant.
In reality, it’s extremely unlikely that their interpretation of her remarks is accurate. Grant likely just spoke off the cuff, however undiplomatically and offensively it came off to many patriotic Pakistanis, and there probably isn’t any conspiracy behind what she said such as her remarks being rehearsed or tacitly approved of by the US government in advance of her sharing them on live TV. After all, she’s pretty much just a random talking head who isn’t even all that known to most Americans so there isn’t any credible chance that she was chosen by her authorities to say what she said in order to send a provocative message to the Pakistani people that’ll certainly prompt more outrage against the US.
American officials have largely eschewed commenting on recent events other than to deny former Prime Minister Khan’s interpretation of them and to express willingness to improve relations with Pakistan under its new authorities. They keenly understand how sensitive the situation is since the former leader’s rallies can likely interpreted (whether rightly or wrongly) by some officials as the largest anti-American protests in the world right now. There is absolutely no chance of repeating Iran’s Islamic Revolution that was driven by fervent anti-Americanism and climaxed with taking US diplomats hostage but the imagery coming out of Pakistan might still evoke memories of that event among some.
The absolute last thing that the US wants to do right now is provoke larger protests across Pakistan against their own country since they understand just how politically destabilizing those rallies have been from the perspective of the new authorities with whom they want to improve relations. Considering this, Grant’s rant actually works against American interests even though that obviously wasn’t her intent since she seems to have sincerely thought that she was proudly representing them from a patriotic perspective. To be sure, what she said is likely what US officials secretly think but they wouldn’t ever say it out loud because of the reaction they predicted it would provoke exactly as her remarks just did.
Circling back to former Prime Minister Khan’s interpretation of Grant’s remark, it doesn’t actually prove that America had a hidden hand in his scandalous removal from office, but it also isn’t accurate to dismiss her rant as an unhinged conspiracy theory that doesn’t reflect America’s unstated wishes either. His supporters and opponents are therefore both right and wrong in their own ways, but the country’s unprecedented polarization means that few will likely ever realize the other side’s valid points. Instead of Grant bringing Pakistanis together to an extent by having them acknowledge the legitimacy of each other’s interpretation of this scandal, she’s actually just tearing them further apart.
By Andrew Korybko Via https://oneworld.press/?module=articles&action=view&id=2815