If there is one statement or narrative that could win an award for the most about-faces and U-turns, the PTI’s “foreign conspiracy” would undoubtedly be a contender. PTI Chairman Imran Khan has taken yet another U-turn on his ‘US conspiracy behind regime change operation’ narrative, which was always seen as rather unlikely by more sober news sources but had resonated deeply with PTI supporters.
The former prime minister said that international relationships should be based on the interests of the country’s people, not personal egos, and that having good ties with the US was crucial in a recent interview with Voice of America (VOA), when the interviewer questioned Imran Khan about his claim that the US conspired with his political opponents to remove him from office and what would happen to Pakistan’s relations with the US if he returned to power.
Then came the clincher: he ‘now’ believed that it was former COAS Gen Bajwa who had told the Americans that Imran was anti-US, thereby ‘exporting’ the regime change plan from here to the US.
This may be the most blatant shift in rhetoric from the PTI, which had previously used Imran’s ‘Absolutely Not’ phrase to incite unprecedented outrage against the alleged American plot to depose him. Imran’s insistence that the US was to blame for Pakistan’s new administration upended diplomatic circles.
This narrative had also heightened tensions between the two countries, making his opponents easy targets for his supporters’ ire. The PTI attempted to use it to invoke Article 5 against the parliamentarians who had proposed the vote of no-confidence, accusing them of ‘disloyalty’ to the state for being part of a ‘conspiracy’ against the PTI government.
As it stands, the narrative appears to have shifted, with shifting political imperatives forcing the PTI to shift the goalposts to a more local point of blame: the retired COAS.More ardent supporters may have missed it, but Imran and the PTI did not name the general in their original narrative.
Critics can point out obvious flaws and about-faces in the PTI’s shifting conspiracy narrative, but one skill the party has mastered is the art of repeating something so many times that it becomes near-absolute truth—at least for its supporters. Now that the PTI chairman has decided to abandon the anti-US narrative, one can be certain that his supporters will follow suit.
However, the PDM government has had to clean up a lot of foreign policy messes. It may be too much to hope for an apology for putting Pakistan’s foreign policy in such jeopardy, but one hopes that some lessons can be drawn from this. Unfortunately, the only lesson that can be drawn is that U-turns work very well for Imran Khan and his party, regardless of the cost.