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Thursday, February 15, 2024

What’s next after the regime change in Pakistan?

Shehbaz Sharif is the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan’s predecessor. Nawaz Sharif was removed from office on 27 July 2017 after Pakistan’s Supreme Court held him guilty of massive corruption. Like Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan Peoples Party’s de facto chairman and a former president of Pakistan, Nawaz is considered a status quo politician who is in America's good books.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from office after a no-confidence motion against him succeeding. He was replaced by Shehbaz Sharif, a joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – a conglomeration of opposition parties lined up against Imran Khan.

PDM had accused Imran Khan’s fragile coalition of poor governance, political victimization of opponents, and mismanaging the economy and foreign policy. Several dissident members of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek – e – Insaf (PTI) also joined the onslaught against their leader when PDM resorted to blatant horse-trading.

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Imran Khan gets ousted from PM’s office

Even before the launching of a confidence motion against his government, Imran Khan, without initially pinpointing, had talked about a foreign hand. His subsequent statements though, and those by his close aides, pointed the smoking gun at the US.

Shehbaz Sharif is the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif -Imran Khan’s predecessor. Nawaz Sharif was removed from office on 27 July 2017 after Pakistan’s Supreme Court held him guilty of massive corruption. Like Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan Peoples Party’s de facto chairman and a former president of Pakistan, Nawaz is considered a status quo politician who is in America’s good books. According to the popular perception in Pakistan, the US was not happy with Nawaz Sharif’s removal.

12 April 2022 – The Economic Times:

“India and the US ask Pakistan to take immediate, sustained, and irreversible action against terrorism. The demand for action by Pakistan was made through a joint statement issued after the 2+2 Ministerial attended by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.”

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Pakistan’s present political turmoil has spawned many conspiracy theories, both against and in favor of the no-confidence motion. To Imran Khan’s supporters, the ex-cricket- captain- turned politician was the victim of a foreign conspiracy. To his detractors, he was an arrogant person who refused to compromise with both his political opponents and foreign powers. There are many dimensions to this hydra-headed crisis that has gripped the Islamic Republic. In this analysis, I shall delimit myself to the external threats, particularly to Pakistan’s nuclear program. The US was never happy with Pakistan’s quest for a nuclear weapon.

Bhutto had assumed power on 20th December 1971

He had the inklings of the internal and external threats against truncated Pakistan in mind when on 20th January 1972 he summoned a meeting of Pakistani nuclear scientists at Quetta. He was a man in a hurry. After a day or two, the venue was shifted to Multan due to Quetta’s extremely cold weather. During the meeting, Bhutto asked the scientists how much time they needed to build a bomb. When they gave a long time frame, he raised his three fingers, telling them that he needed the bomb within three years.

Unlike Zulfiqar Bhutto, Zia ul Haq, and Benazir Bhutto, who had contributed significantly towards the advancement of the nuclear program, Nawaz Sharif had done nothing. It can be said that he stumbled upon the bomb and made political mileage out of it. Like a sword wielded by a child, he wobbled while brandishing it before India and the rest of the world (more so, to awe- struck his people). Pakistan is the only country where fiberglass monuments have been erected to celebrate the nuclear explosions, and where dummy missiles adorn the major road intersections. Dr. Abdul Qadeer, the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear program, had stated that Nawaz never wanted to explode the bomb.

Throughout the development of the nuclear bomb, Americans kept a close watch on the activities at Kahuta and elsewhere by recruiting moles and infiltrating Pakistan’s nuclear weapons facilities. So did the  Indians, Soviets, Israelis, French, and many others.

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A French diplomat was intercepted while traveling on the Rawalpindi-Kahuta road and thoroughly beaten up. Later on, Zia rang up the diplomat after he was evacuated to his residence, with many of his ribs broken. Zia consoled the diplomat with his characteristic modesty and promised to bring the culprits to book. Indians were not so lucky and, whenever caught, were terminated after being brutally beaten up. Monitoring and sniffing devices were planted by the CIA in the vicinity of the enrichment facility.

Many of these devices were found by the security personnel, and disabled

However, through some of the undetected sniffing devices, and through their moles, the Americans were able to ascertain, from time to time, the level of uranium enrichmentatKahuta. The United States wants to defang Pakistan and bring it under the matrix of Indian security – A PaxIndica under the umbrella of America’s strategic partner. According to Goldberg &Ambinder (2011) “ During senate hearings for her confirmation as secretary of state in 2005, Condoleeza Rise had remarked: “We have noted this problem, and we are prepared to try to deal with it”.

Goldberg & Ambinder describe Pentagon’s plans for dealing with various contingencies involving the Pakistani nuclear crisis as follows:-

  1. If a single weapon or a small amount of nuclear material were to go missing, the response would be contained –Abbottabad redux.
  2. Seizing control of –or at least disabling – the entire Pakistani nuclear arsenal in the event of a Jihadist coup or another catastrophic event. The scale of such an operation would be too large. An across-the-board campaign would be led by US central command.
  3. In a larger disablement campaign, the U.S. would likely mobilize the army’s 20th Support Command, whose Nuclear Disablement Teams would accompany Special Operations detachments or Marine companies into the country.
  4. At the same time, the U.S. military and intelligence forces have been quietly pre-positioning the necessary equipment in the region. In the event of a coup, U.S forces would rush into the country, crossing borders, rappelling down from helicopters, and parachuting out of planes, so they can secure known or suspected nuclear-storage sites. Their first task might be to disable tactical nuclear weapons – because those are more easily mated, and easier to move around, than long-range missiles, rappelling down from helicopters, and parachuting out of planes, so they can secure known or suspected nuclear-storage sites. Their first task might be to disable tactical nuclear weapons – because those are more easily mated, and easier to move around, than long-range missiles.

 

Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.