What the political upheaval in Pakistan means for the rest of the world

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted from office in a vote of no confidence in parliament early Sunday morning after three years and seven months in power.

A new government is likely to be formed under opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif after Parliament meets again on Monday to elect a new prime minister.

Sandwiched between Afghanistan to the west, China to the northeast and India to the east, the nation of more than 220 million people is of critical strategic importance.

Since coming to power in 2018, Khan’s rhetoric has turned anti-American, and he has expressed a desire to draw closer to China and, more recently, Russia – including talks with President Vladimir Putin on February 24, the day the invasion of Ukraine began .

At the same time, US and Asian foreign policy experts said Pakistan’s powerful military has traditionally controlled foreign and defense policy, but Khan’s harsh public rhetoric has had an impact on a number of important ties.

Here’s what the upheaval that comes when the economy hits big troubles means for countries closely linked to Pakistan:

INDIA

The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them over disputed Muslim-majority Kashmir.

As in Afghanistan, the Pakistani military controls politics in the sensitive area, and tensions along the de facto border there are at their lowest since 2021 thanks to a ceasefire.

But there were no formal diplomatic talks between the rivals for years because of deep distrust on a number of issues, including Khan’s extreme criticism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his handling of attacks on Muslim minorities in India.

Karan Thapar, an Indian political commentator who has followed India-Pakistan relations closely, said the Pakistani military could put pressure on the new government in Islamabad to build on the successful ceasefire in Kashmir.

Pakistan’s powerful army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, recently said his country is ready to move forward in Kashmir if India agrees.

The Sharif dynasty has spearheaded several peaceful overtures to India over the years.

AFGHANISTAN

Ties between Pakistan’s military intelligence service and the militant Islamist Taliban have loosened in recent years.

Now that the Taliban are back in power in Afghanistan and facing an economic and humanitarian crisis due to lack of funds and international isolation, Qatar is arguably their most important foreign partner.

“We (the United States) don’t need Pakistan as a conduit to the Taliban. Qatar is definitely playing that role now,” said Lisa Curtis, director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security Think-Panzer.

Tensions have risen between the Taliban and the Pakistani military, which has lost several soldiers in attacks near their shared border. Pakistan wants the Taliban to do more to crack down on extremist groups and fears they will spread violence in Pakistan. This has already started.

Khan had been less critical of the Taliban on human rights issues than most foreign leaders.

CHINA

Khan has consistently emphasized China’s positive role in Pakistan and the world at large.

At the same time, the US$60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) linking the neighbors was actually conceived and launched among Pakistan’s two mainstream political parties, both of whom will share power in the new government .

The potential successor Sharif, the younger brother of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, struck direct deals with China as the leader of eastern Punjab province, and his reputation for embarking on major infrastructure projects while avoiding political tribunes might actually be music in Beijing’s ears.

UNITED STATES

US-based South Asia experts said the political crisis in Pakistan is unlikely to be a priority for President Joe Biden, who is grappling with the war in Ukraine, unless it has led to mass unrest or rising tensions with India .

“We have so many other fish to fry,” said Robin Raphel, a former deputy secretary of state for South Asia who is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

With Pakistan’s military maintaining behind-the-scenes control of foreign and security policy, the change in government was not a major problem, according to some analysts.

“Since it is the military that decides the policies that the US really cares about, ie Afghanistan, India and nuclear weapons, internal political developments in Pakistan are largely irrelevant to the US,” said Curtis, then US President Donald was Trump’s executive director of the National Security Council for South Asia.

She added that Khan’s visit to Moscow had been a “disaster” in terms of US relations and that a new government in Islamabad could at least help repair ties “to a certain extent”.

Khan has blamed the United States for the current political crisis and said Washington wants him removed over the recent trip to Moscow. Washington denies any role.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/what-political-upheaval-in-pakistan-means-for-rest-of-the-world/articleshow/90756105.cms What the political upheaval in Pakistan means for the rest of the world

Jaclyn Diaz

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