Islamabad, Pakistan – Imran Khan, the former Pakistani prime minister, has signaled his readiness to restore ties with the United States after repeatedly accusing Washington of conspiring to remove him from power in April.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s over, it’s behind me. The Pakistan I want to lead must have good relations with everyone, especially the United States,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Saturday.
While he expressed his willingness to work with the United States if re-elected and said he wanted a “dignified” relationship with the United States, the 70-year-old also criticized the relations of the Pakistan with the United States.
“Our relationship with the United States has been like a master-servant relationship, or a master-slave relationship, and we have been used as a mercenary. But for that, I blame my own governments more than the United States,” he said.
The US Embassy in Islamabad has yet to respond to a request from Al Jazeera to comment on Khan’s recent conciliatory remarks.
Khan was removed as prime minister in April following a vote of no confidence in parliament, which he has since blamed on a US-led foreign plot that also involved the powerful Pakistani military establishment and its political rivals.
He never provided evidence to back up his claims. Islamabad and Washington have denied the charges.
“Gloves are off”
On November 3, Khan was shot in the leg in the city of Wazirabad in the eastern province of Punjab while leading a protest march to the capital to demand a snap election. The term of the current National Assembly ends in October 2023.
The long march, which started Oct. 28 from Lahore, resumed after the shooting, and Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is on its way to Islamabad. Although he cannot physically attend, he speaks to his supporters every evening.
Khan told the Financial Times in the interview shortly after he was shot that a snap election was the only way to restore political stability and warned of growing economic upheaval if it didn’t happen. soon.
His popularity has often increased due to his anti-American rhetoric, but Khan’s pushback on the American conspiracy theory was inevitable, said analyst Mosharraf Zaidi of the Islamabad think tank Tabadlab.
It wasn’t the first time Khan had used a populist “he knows how to be fake” trope to excite his base, Zaidi said.
“The reason this comes to the fore now is that the American angle in his conspiracy theory allowed him to attack military leaders without actually attacking them,” Zaidi told Al Jazeera.
“Now that the gloves between him and General Bajwa [Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa] come loose, the usefulness of maintaining the American plating is greatly reduced.
While the United States has always been one of Pakistan’s close allies, the past decade has seen a cooling off despite Washington being Islamabad’s main economic and security partner.
Pakistan has received more than $30 billion in aid in the past 20 years alone as one of the United States’ main partners in the so-called “war on terror” in Afghanistan.
A senior PTI official denied that Khan was anti-American, saying instead that he was simply questioning American policy.
“Imran Khan was never an anti-American politician, his narrative was never anti-American,” Asad Umar said.
“His policy is that American policy is never consistent with American ideals themselves, neither in the interest of our region, nor in the interest of America itself. There is a very clear distinction in his criticism that needs to be drawn to put his statements into context,” Umar told Al Jazeera.
Zaidi, the analyst, believes Khan ‘will continue to play one game with his supporters and another with publications such as the FT [Financial Times] because his main audience is his supporter vulnerable to populism.
He added: “Once he has the power…he can always backtrack on the absurd and blatantly untrue master-slave type narratives.”