Prominent journalist Arshad Sharif on Wednesday explained the internal and external factors linked to what Imran Khan calls a US-backed regime-change conspiracy against his government.
Speaking to the participants of a seminar titled ‘Regime Change Conspiracy and Pakistan’s Destabilisation,’ Sharif said the US did not contact the PTI administration, despite former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s efforts. But as soon as Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari became the foreign minister, the communication between the two states was resumed.
Sharif said the media has not yet questioned whether it was a decision made in the White House or the US NSC. He added that it could be a state-level decision by President Joe Biden, who was part of the Project for the New American Century which led to various US-backed regime-change operations worldwide post-2001, including Iraq.
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Discussing the internal factors, he said it all comes down to egoistic individuals, institutions, and their political interests. “Who thinks for Pakistan? Are we only going to think about the individuals, or just institutions that have a bad ego?”
“Was Imran Khan thinking of Pakistan or protecting individuals’ interests? What kind of media narratives were shaped during the regime change conspiracy? Individuals and institutions dominated them, while the media remained silent about the interests of the country.”
He claimed that lawfare – the weaponisation of legal instruments for political ends – was a part of this regime-change operation and the media actively reported it.
Reiterating President Dr. Arif Alvi’s stance, Sharif said we have to find out “the smoking gun in the hand of the conspirator” involved in the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and who was behind Imran Khan’s ouster.
Identifying a larger pattern, Sharif said the US had interests in the region at the time of the imposition of all three martial laws of 1958, 1978, and 1999. He said Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated two weeks before his Russia visit.
He said during the peak of the cold war, Pakistan became a part of the US camp and joined SEATO and CENTO. Later, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was deposed in a military coup by his appointed army chief Zia-ul-Haq, before being controversially tried and sentenced to death in 1978.
In 1999, he said the US had already planned wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. He said the TTP was infused in Pakistan, which was dragged into a war of terror. He said Pakistan’s nuclear weapon saved it from attack.
However, he said, during the Musharraf era, Pakistan finally walked into the war against terrorism, and the rest is history. He pointed out that all the dictatorships ended through popular uprisings, like the emergence of PPP or the Lawyers Movement. But he said there was always a hybrid democratic system.
He noted that the 2018-2022 era in Pakistani politics stands out based on its “authoritarian consolidation” and accountability. But in a presser, Maryam Nawaz talked about some “videos,” and the accountability process slowed down, and Nawaz Sharif was sent to the UK.
Discussing the role of media in shaping the narrative during the regime-change conspiracy, he said the press implemented a 3-D strategy against the PTI government: disrupt, discredit, and deny.
He raised a question that when Imran Khan was ousted from office late at night after losing a no-confidence vote, who ordered a police van to be stationed outside the PM house, adding that Sheikh Rashid – the then interior minister – did not do so.
Criticising the Red Zone Files, Sharif said the debates in print and electronic media during the “regime change” operation focused on institutions and individuals rather than on constitutional framework or business rules. “Do we want the country to be ruled by law or by individuals?”
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The journalist claimed that on April 9 or 10, the media was directed to deny space to PTI, adding that the journalists who raised their voices were thrown out of their channels, including Imran Riaz Khan.
He said those who filed FIRs against the journalists and PTI members are following the same old ‘playbook.’ He said the problem, however, is that they cannot find the corruption cases and have to resort to terrorism charges.
Sharif claimed that he was also asked to do a show on Imran Khan’s corruption, to which he said, “Imran Khan did not even waste half a bottle of water, how can you expect to find or allege corruption cases against him.”