Military Review

The results of political battles in Pakistan may open new opportunities, but they need to be properly analyzed

The results of political battles in Pakistan may open new opportunities, but they need to be properly analyzed

Bold ellipsis

On August 5, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was sentenced to three years in prison. Of the numerous accusations that his political opponents threatened I. Khan, the court chose the episode with gifts that he allegedly sold for a total of 635 thousand dollars. Cases of this kind are common in Pakistan's political struggle. In this case, the episode is still clearly chosen in a relatively "balanced" way.

Now, the former prime minister and leader of one of the largest parties in the country, the Justice Movement, will still not be able to take part not only in the autumn election campaign, but also for the next five years to run for office.

The arrest of I. Khan puts, if not a dot, then a rather bold ellipsis in the confrontation of his political power with the current cabinet of Sh. Sharif. In early May, Military Review published an article describing the causes and prerequisites for this situation, which at that time led to serious clashes between I. Khan's supporters and the armed forces throughout Pakistan ("Who and why is blowing up Pakistan").

Now Sharif's government will have to go through the difficulties of the upcoming election campaign, which will be tense in any case (the elections may even be postponed to next year), albeit with a clear final result, and also decide on a strategy for several years ahead. In the meantime, the “technical” interim prime minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, a senator from the province of Balochistan, is a compromise figure. This was done so as not to affect the densely populated Punjab and not to shake the situation.

Today, Pakistan provides us with a good opportunity to reflect on the mechanisms of many other crisis processes that are taking place not only in this country, but also far from it, since in the escalation of the last six months, one can trace some characteristic relationships and a very peculiar role of Pakistan in various international combinations and projects.

In Russia, it is customary to describe the struggle between the parties of Sh. Sharif and I. Khan, primarily in the context of the confrontation between the United States and China. This is technically really convenient: the first prime minister seems to be "pro-American", the second - "pro-Chinese", but here, for the sake of convenience, the authors (if they say so seriously) sacrifice the depth of presentation.

Calling I. Khan "pro-Chinese" is about the same as calling D. Trump "pro-Russian." It is appropriate here to quote a paragraph from a previous work on the subject.

"In fact, just as the military elite in Pakistan cannot be anti-Chinese, so the civilian government of Pakistan cannot be anti-European."

The peculiarity of this spring in Pakistan has undoubtedly become that, against the backdrop of the discussion of the issues of recognition of the Taliban (banned in the Russian Federation), the traditional anti-corruption, i.e. political, struggle in this country has directly hit the ruling core - the generals. The form of I. Khan's arrest in May, and in fact his abduction, during the presence of Sh. Sharif at the coronation of Charles III, resembled a frank sabotage on the principle of "against everyone."

It took several months to blow off steam and work out a certain balance from a series of supposedly corrupt episodes, where the “selling gifts” case is far from the most significant of the entire set of options. If we follow the logic of "China against the United States", then the demolition of the Pakistani generals would not help either side. Similar provocative episodes were observed in neighboring Afghanistan, which cannot be simple. coincidence.

Looking at these episodes, one should always take into account that I.Khan and Sharif Sharif are themselves part of the Western elite. The “friend or foe” category can often include rather unexpected characters, and this sometimes frankly confuses the domestic observer.

We, for example, are very fond of the anti-American rhetoric of another political figure. So, at one time, Philippine President R. Duterte was a fighter with the United States, who at press conferences called B. Obama literally “the son of a woman with low social responsibility”, and UN Secretary General P. Ki-moon – “another fool”.

In Russia, on talk shows, the “brave Rodrigo” was furiously clapped, but it’s worth reading what he is now saying about Russia or his speeches at the For Democracy summit with John Biden at the end of last year – where is the applause?

I. Khan criticized the United States not in such vivid terms, but also quite tangibly, at least he said more than once in the style of “we are not slaves”, only it would be very naive to consider its current history within the framework of the paradigm "suffered by the United States for the freedom of peoples."

Elite syndicates

Any public politician in one way or another expresses the sentiments of some part of society in his state, but today it is not this that matters, but his belonging to a certain transnational elite group, and not just to an industry elite or abstractly “financial”, but one that has their visions of the future.

The peculiarity of the current crisis in the world is that it is not states that compete with each other, but international elite syndicates. In every country, part of the elite belongs to one group, part to another. This is no longer so much a rivalry of powers and alliances, but an analogue of the competition between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines of medieval Europe, where party supporters were in every principality, in every baronial family.

No major country, including Pakistan, is an exception. The comparison is interesting because modern ultra-liberals have declared a natural crusade to Christianity, although something like a gender war would be better suited here.

In the "friend or foe" relationship, it is equally important to take into account which party of "friends" certain actors belong to. Each "friend" still has to choose the party for which he will stand. Here, many big families and wealth holders often do not always want to play for the party of "rootless cosmopolitans" grown in the incubator of managers, there are different combinations, each player has his own.

This is especially true in the East. For example, Saudi Arabia plays Barbie 15 times a day in all cinemas today. It's funny to some, but for some it is a definite signal that Riyadh will not play systematically against the ultra-liberals.

The example of Pakistan is good because the struggle of these syndicates or, as we sometimes like to say in Russia, “global projects” has led to the fact that the pillar on which the former prime minister stood, and the current prime minister stands, has been shaken. Why were they shaking?

Considering this aspect, it should be noted that both I. Khan and the Sharif clan are not representatives of the ultra-liberal project, which today is nominally represented in the USA by J. Biden, but in Europe by clone managers like the odious A. Burbock. The Pakistanis are part of the "old conservative elite", that is, they are forced (due to circumstances) opponents of the current Washington top.

But the fact is that there are simply no other elites in Pakistan, and the attitude of the current US diplomacy to this or that representative in Pakistan depends on how much it fits into their conceptual vision of the region, with whom synergy is possible on most key issues. Because such an opposition is not a confrontation, but rather a historical feature, plus a set of reasons, not least related to the Afghan problem.

On August 10, the press in Russia massively published a sensational investigation by the American journalistic project The Intercept, which provides links to materials from US diplomatic correspondence.

According to these data, a month before the no-confidence vote was passed against I. Khan, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs D. Lu and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State L. Si Vigeri allegedly demanded that the ambassador of this country in the United States inform I. Khan that he should change its position of "active neutrality" in Ukraine, otherwise, they say, "Pakistan will not be forgiven for this."

We did not fail to present this as another episode of US interference in the affairs of sovereign countries, which organized another coup against the "friend of China and Russia."

The problem is that few people remember that the journalistic project The Intercept was very active in covering the alleged Russian interference in the American elections, throwing in “evidence” proving such interference, and is very selective in reporting on topical topics of the relationship between the J. Biden family and Ukraine.

What is remarkable here?

If I. Khan was required to change his position on Ukraine, is it not strange that until now the Pakistani Foreign Ministry officially declares that “it will not support any side of the conflict”, Ukraine itself cannot conclude military agreements with Islamabad, but about that ammunition for Ukraine is supplied to the Polish port of Gdynia from Pakistan, writes precisely the Indian press?

Maybe they deliver, in exchange for the repair of helicopters, or maybe not. Stories of Kiev offering unlicensed repairs have surfaced regularly over the years, usually from Indian neighbours. They also wrote on March 11 last year that Pakistan was ready to hand over to Ukraine Tanks T-80UD.

However, it was I. Khan who was the prime minister at that time. Why, exactly at this very time, the United States to talk about his removal? The successor of I. Khan still does not transfer tanks, why then did they change the prime minister, if they did?

At first glance, this publication is just an act comparable to WikiLeaks. But in fact, if we combine the arrest of I. Khan, who shook the entire elite support of Pakistan (their own for the West as a whole, but from a different party in relation to the administration in the United States), and this publication, it turns out that the material in The Intercept, on the contrary, it is a signal of support for the current cabinet in Islamabad, but also a signal that it is better not to interfere in the issue of recognizing the Taliban government until a final position is formed in Washington.

And again, as at the summit in Jeddah and at other venues, the factor of Ukraine is used here as a thread that sews together different foreign policy blocs. And from the side it seems that the former Prime Minister of Pakistan suffered almost because of Ukraine.

Another interesting episode is Pakistan's recent refusal to build a common gas pipeline with Iran - Iran built its part, and Islamabad shrugged and sent a notification that until the sanctions on Iran were lifted, it was impossible to participate in the project.

It would seem that this is an example when the current prime minister is clearly moving in line with the strictly anti-Iranian policy of the United States, in contrast to his predecessor. But the fact is that the gas pipeline has been pulled since 2009, but neither Y. Gilani, nor N. Sharif, nor I. Khan himself really built it from the Pakistani side. Sh. Sharif here only formalized the answer to the question of construction.

Let's take another example - the construction in the state of Punjab, together with the Chinese CNNC, of ​​the CHASNUPP ("Chashma") nuclear power plant. Nuclear power plants were promoted by all premieres, construction was slowed down for financial reasons, then resumed, but not a single American administration, in turn, interfered with this project.

You can also cite the story of China's long-term lease of the deep-water port of Gwadar in Pakistan's Balochistan. It is believed that I. Khan actively promoted interaction with China, but investments and the actual project with China were found and launched by I. Khan's predecessor and antagonist, N. Sharif.

I. Khan also promoted the development of this maritime junction, and the Americans, when necessary, engaged in various kinds of protests of “Baluchi fishermen robbed by the Chinese,” but the total investment of the PRC in this junction over the years amounted to less than $ 0,87 billion, with a total over 11 years - 61 billion dollars. 12% of them accounted for projects in the nuclear power industry launched before I. Khan. Of the $61 billion, 70% ($42,7 billion), again, was raised by his predecessors.

The popularity of I. Khan among the people, indeed, is very significant, only the reasons for the resignations and unrest lie clearly somewhat aside from the aspirations of the people and theses about “the fight against American hegemony”, “friendship with Russia and China”, “activation of relations with Iran ".

The peculiarity of relations between Pakistan and the United States lies precisely in the fact that if the current Western ultra-liberal part of the elite is waging a hot war with Russia, a “warm” one with Iran, and a cold one with China, then Pakistan in this model is only required to observe a certain status - quo, remaining in the trade orbit of Western Europe, but the main condition is not to show excessive activity and independence in Afghanistan. Even more so, this applies to any issues of recognition of the Taliban regime.

But a huge advantage of Pakistan is that the ultra-liberals do not require a blood oath from its elites. Another major player is in this position - the Aga Khan Foundation, which, by the way, also controls one of the provinces of Pakistan in Kashmir. The Fund actively participates in financing the projects of ultra-liberals, but is quite independent in politics.

When both I. Khan and the current prime minister once again went on an independent track in recognizing the Taliban, both the first and second, as well as the Pakistani elite as a whole, were very intelligibly reminded of the criteria of "friend or foe", as well as the attitude to party affiliation. They chided and let go, and Pakistan wrote a letter to Iran stating that the gas pipeline project was being frozen until the sanctions were unblocked. Does this surprise Tehran, given all of the above? No, not surprised. Because in this way Islamabad gave feedback that the signals were heard.

Afghanistan as an American strategy is a task for any cabinet in Islamabad, which is solved with enormous difficulty. And the main claim from the White House to I. Khan lies not in the sphere of the policy of Iran or China, but specifically in Afghanistan. Moreover, as soon as the talk turned to the recognition of the Taliban, for which the United States does not have a ready-made solution, they hit hard on the supporting structure in Pakistan - the military elite. Showing that even though you are "their own", but still not from our team. From our city, but from another street. There are many allegories here, it is important to feel the model of relations.

As we can clearly see, the United States in Pakistan is concerned not so much with Chinese expansion - these investments do not pull Pakistan out of the western trade orbit, but stabilize a region with a population of 230 million people and a huge labor market, but with consistency in the Afghan direction and strengthening Pakistan's relations with Arab countries .

For Russia

For Pakistan's neighbors, those that do not belong to the Western bloc, such features of the relationship between Pakistan and Washington are opportunities rather than threats. Since the United States is postponing and constantly “shifting to the right” the solution of Afghan issues, some large projects related to transit infrastructure may be artificially slowed down. But projects within Pakistan itself and the Pakistani market have been and remain open. Including for Russia.

In this regard, Moscow, on the one hand, should not count on Pakistan's deep and practical involvement in various projects of trade corridors. It is possible and necessary to discuss, but until the development of the US strategy in Afghanistan, these will be more like pilot projects, more a field for discussion.

But the Pakistani market itself will be open, and this, by the way, is a rare case when the peculiarities of the Pakistani “political party spirit” will play a plus in trade with us.

It will be even more convenient to work with Pakistan in traditional trade under Sh. Sharif's cabinet than with India, especially considering the relations between the prime minister of Pakistan and the UAE.

A very balanced position of Islamabad on Ukraine will also be a plus. If you look, then this is a very decent potential.

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  1. parusnik
    parusnik 17 August 2023 05: 39
    It will be even more convenient to work with Pakistan in traditional trade under Sharif's cabinet than with India
    "Grey" import, it's understandable, it's easier to drag through Pakistan
    1. nikolaevskiy78
      17 August 2023 11: 23
      If you have been working with Turkey for years, then switching to Pakistan or Iran will be another adventure.
  2. knn54
    knn54 18 August 2023 15: 36
    Michael, let me disagree. You missed the point that the British have a very strong influence in Pakistan.
    The Ismailis, led by the Aga Khan, are purely theirs (you can’t win, lead) the project.
    During the inauguration, I.Khan said the following - "I am not going to make America's slave out of my country" - and this is not forgiven.
    He wanted to build good neighborly relations with Iran and India. That is, destroy again the British project "anti-India" and the American project "anti-Iran"
    Now about the Taliban. Pakistan (and not only) did not take into account one thing - the Pashtuns are not Islamists, but nationalists. For them, their Pashtun "code" is higher than the Koran.
    Imran Khan is their tribesman, who began productive negotiations with the rebels. And the coup ruined everything.
    For "you cannot build something lasting on hatred, intolerance, hostility with all neighbors." This is SUCH Pakistan that suits the Anglo-Saxons quite well
    1. nikolaevskiy78
      18 August 2023 16: 05
      That is why I gave the example of R. Duterte, because the rhetoric of I. Khan was also quite tough and it is usually given as the first number. The strong influence of Britain in this region is undeniable, but I would not overestimate the differences between the US and London in this region. It seems to me that these disagreements are stronger in the Transcaucasus than in the Afghanistan-Pakistan line.
      The thesis about establishing "good relations with Iran" by I.Khan sounds interesting. But on a practical level, he has little evidence. I have prepared a material on trade between Iran and Afghanistan - more has been done on this line in half a year than in the entire term of I.Khan. But there are a lot of pain points, borders, water resources, etc. The development of Gwadar in Baluchistan, and this is not only a port, but also the rest of the infrastructure, began long before I. Khan. Well, after all, Pashtuns and Balochs are large ethnic groups, but still not half of the population, but about 20%. It should also be noted that in recent years the composition of the army has changed - from a predominantly Punjabi, it has become mixed.
      1. Old Michael
        Old Michael 20 August 2023 10: 49
        Hello, cousin!
        Thank you for an interesting article and informative comments - like cherries on a cake.
        But the topic Russia-Pakistan, KMK deserves a separate analysis. After all, the work of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this area is somehow not promoted, but the fact that it is being carried out is a fact (another thing is that it will not work to evaluate its effectiveness without having an insider).
        Perhaps you can add some clarity?

        Yours faithfully,
        1. nikolaevskiy78
          20 August 2023 12: 14
          Greetings mutually! I'll try to make stuff. But our problem is not in "insiders", but in a rather specific position in foreign policy, which we have been holding for five years now. If it is figuratively described, then this is a reaction to events in a stubborn desire to maintain the status quo. This is something like moving backwards - they took two steps, ran into an obstacle, you need to somehow feel it, dodge it without changing the principle of movement, wrap around and try to do the same further - until the next obstacle, etc.

          At one time I was very impressed with how we did business in the Syrian direction - it was even nice to see. Almost a mathematical model was implemented. Then it became clear that if there was a model, then another question was, whose authorship. Because it can't be repeated anywhere.

          Now almost all major players and players' unions have a project for the future. Even among the Central Asian five, Turkey, India, the USA, China, the Arab countries, Japan is trying to do something. But Russia and the European Union live in some strange paradigm. But the EU managers feel good - the "horse thinks" for them, they don't need to think, and no one will think for us, and if they do, it is clearly not good. Those. other major players are moving according to plan and on the map, but what about this is a big question for us. And it's not a question of whether these projects and maps are good or bad - they exist.

          In general, this creates enormous difficulties for observers and analysts - everyone is trying to grope for some kind of mega-plan for Russia and always falls into the "milk". According to our strategy, analytics has turned into a kind of graphomania, fiction. That's the problem.

          It is easier with foreign players - there are plans and roadmaps, you can check how and who is moving, stages, mistakes, problems, how plans are corrected. And we need to predict the reaction to events that occur as part of the players' attempts to move along these road maps. This does not mean that there are no positive moments, they are - there is no roadmap and project that is adequate to our position in the world.
      2. knn54
        knn54 21 August 2023 08: 52
        Michael, hello. For Monday morning is never good. It's a joke.
        I agree about 20% Pashtuns/Kashmiris and Balochi, but they control almost half of Pakistan.
        The British and Americans in Pakistan control the army, and the former traditionally also control the special services.
        There is no "Terok" between them, especially since Israel has also joined them, which does not advertise its interest in this region.
        The PRC has never been particularly interested in the ruling regime in the states they were going to invest in. This (except for Pakistan) is clearly visible in Niger.
        And what will happen tomorrow, we will find out the day after tomorrow ..
        1. nikolaevskiy78
          21 August 2023 22: 13
          The contradiction here, KMK, is only external. I have in my archive a study on the national composition of the Pakistani army in the late 1990s and 2017-2020s. The composition practically approached the general distribution for Pakistan and with an additional share of Pashtuns. So, in principle, there is no contradiction, the only thing is that 50% is still too much.
          I have an opinion that it is the change in the national composition of the armed forces that is one of the important factors that external forces are playing on today. Not that they directly control it, but yes, use it.
          As for Israel, I have no information about its participation. However, they hid their participation in Yemen for a long time. Somewhere they openly work, as in Kurdistan, only they do not allow photographing planes in Erbil), somewhere, as in Azerbaijan, they try to disguise it. Their work in Pakistan is not excluded, not excluded.
  3. Des
    Des 21 August 2023 18: 57
    Thank you for an interesting, important and independent article on VO. Rare case). Good luck.
    1. nikolaevskiy78
      21 August 2023 22: 13
      Thanks for the rating! I will work further hi