NEW YORK: American print and electronic media Sunday gave prominent coverage to the news of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ouster from office, highlighting his rise from an international cricketer to a politician who oversaw an era of Pakistan’s foreign policy that distanced the country from the United States, and moved it towards China and Russia.
In a dispatch from Islamabad, The Washington Post wrote, “(Imran) Khan made a last-ditch effort to cling to power, producing a document that he said proved that U.S. officials had conspired against him in league with his legislative opponents.”
“But”, Post correspondent Pamela Constable said, “as a tense nighttime confrontation loomed, with police and paramilitary troops blanketing the capital, the vote was finally held.”
Meanwhile, the reaction among Pakistanis living in the United States was generally along party lines, with PML-N, PPP and other allied parties welcoming the end of Imran Khan’s government as upholding of the Constitution while PTI leaders denounced the move which they said was part of an international conspiracy.
Continuing, The Washington Post wrote, “A charismatic politician and former jet-setting cricket star, Khan, 69, swept to power in 2018, inspiring voters with his anti-establishment rhetoric and a vision of building a ‘new Pakistan’— an Islamic welfare state based on opportunity, justice and independence for the nuclear power …
“But in recent months, he had struggled to control rampant inflation, foreign debt and other economic woes.
While many of his promised reforms and civic projects sputtered, he maintained a loyal following, especially among young Pakistanis. But he also made political enemies, rejected advice from military leaders and lost allies to the opposition, which slowly gathered enough support to challenge his fitness for office.
“As his luster dimmed, Khan launched an aggressive campaign to restore it. He held massive rallies and gave speeches with stirring nationalist and religious themes, even couching his effort as a fight between good and evil. And when it appeared that his opponents had marshaled enough votes to remove him, Khan dissolved the legislature April 3 and arranged to have the vote abruptly canceled, on the grounds that it was based on an illegal foreign conspiracy…”
“After taking office,” the Post said, “Khan shifted Pakistan’s allegiance to China and caused consternation in Washington with some of his policies and public gestures. He made a blanket refusal to host U.S. bases, welcomed last year’s Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and traveled to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin on the eve of the invasion of Ukraine.
“I will never accept the imported government, and I will take to the streets,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
The New York Times noted, “Mr. Khan has repeatedly said that the opposition’s moves against him were part of a United States-backed conspiracy to oust him from power and he called for his supporters to protest on Sunday.
“Khan, 69, had parlayed his athletic stardom into a populist political career, promising to rid the country of endemic corruption, set the sputtering economy back on track, and build a ‘new Pakistan’ that he described as an Islamist welfare state.
“But economic realities, including huge government debt and three straight years of double-digit inflation, thwarted his plans and undermined his popularity. Tackling corruption proved easier said than done. His shift away from the West and closer to China and Russia was polarizing.”
During his term, the Times said, Pakistan weathered the coronavirus pandemic relatively well, spared the devastation witnessed in some other parts of the world despite early problems with an overwhelmed and undersupplied health care system.
But his foreign policy decisions became a point of contention, according yo NYT.
“Seeking more independence from the West, he disengaged from the so-called war on terrorism. Last June, he said Pakistan would ‘absolutely not’ allow the C.I.A. to use bases inside Pakistan for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. After the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last year, even before American troops and officials had fully withdrawn from the country, he praised Afghans for having ‘broken the chains of slavery’.”
The Wall Street Journal , said, “Mr. Khan had taken an increasingly anti-Western line and claimed that he had been targeted for pursuing an independent foreign policy. Pakistan has traditionally been a U.S. ally.
The U.S. had in particular been angered by his trip to Moscow in February at the start of the Ukraine invasion, it said. The opposition and Washington have denied that they are working together to oust Khan.