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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 556, 14 February 2023

The King of U-Turns: Imran Khan once again changes the narrative on regime change



Imran Khan’s U-turn policy reveals that he plays by the ear rather than following a game plan

Abigail Miriam Fernandez

On 11 February, Imran Khan in an interview with the Voice of America English accused General Qamar Javed Bajwa and not the United States for his removal from power in April 2022. He said, “Whatever happened, now as things unfold, it wasn’t the US who told Pakistan [to oust me]. It was unfortunately, from what evidence has come up, [former army chief] Gen [Qamar Javed] Bajwa who somehow managed to tell the Americans that I was anti-American. And so, it [the plan to oust me] wasn’t imported from there. It was exported from here to there.”

The U-turns and ‘foreign conspiracy’ narrative
However, this is not the first time that Imran Khan has changed his narrative on the ‘regime change conspiracy.’ Initially, after being removed from power in April 2022, Imran Khan claimed that there was “an international conspiracy” hatched against his government by opposition leaders and their alleged handlers who he claimed was the United States. The accusations and U-turns did not stop there. In another U-turn, he claimed that a powerful establishment was behind the no-confidence move. He later changed his narrative stating that Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Maulana Fazl ul-Rehman and were behind the regime change. After this, he accused Chief Minister Punjab Mohsin Naqvi for his removal from power. The latest U-turn on the ‘regime change conspiracy’ comes as Imran Khan took a complete U-turn blaming Gen Bajwa for his removal from power.

In a matter of nine months, Imran Khan has changed his narrative on the issue almost four times. The back and forth shows that Imran Khan is yet to face the reality that he has lost the no-confidence motion, whether it was pushed internally or externally. The successive U-turns also show that the PTI has been high on rhetoric rather than making a substantial game plan to come back to power. However, why does Imran Khan choose to policy of U-turn and how does it benefit him?

Imran describes the U-turn as a hallmark of leadership
Earlier in 2018, Imran Khan stated that U-turn were hallmarks of leadership. He said, “Doing a U-turn to reach an objective is the hallmark of great leadership just as lying to save ill-gotten wealth is the hallmark of crooks.” He also stated that a real leader always makes U-turns and changes their strategy according to the situation and the need of the hour, arguing, “The leader who does not do timely U-turns is not a real leader.”
Imran Khan who is often described as “master of U-turns” has evolved into a “king of U-turns.” Throughout the PTI government’s rule, Imran Khan was seen taking U-turns on domestic and external issues. Most often these U-turn were taken abruptly and created confusion.

However, Imran Khan has used the U-turns policy as a consistent part his strategy, based on his belief that leader always makes U-turns and changes their strategy according to the situation and the need of the hour.

A few instances from the past reveal the workings of Imran Khan’s U-turn strategy
1. The U-turns on Gen Bajwa
During the PTI government’s tenure, Imran Khan called Gen Bajwa as a pro-democracy military chief. But after he was ousted from power, Imran termed him as ‘Mir Jaffer and Mir Sadiq.’ The timing of this U-turn is significant as it comes when the tainted legacy of Gen Bajwa is being questioned publicly. Additionally, it also comes at a time when the PTI requires mass support to continue their political journey, thus hitting at the establishment, in this case indirectly would gain him some support.

2. The U-turn on mass resignations
After the PDM alliance managed to pass the no-confidence motion, Imran Khan asked his MNAs to resign from the National Assembly. However, later he ordered his MNAs to go back to the parliament and take back their resignations only to have them resign again. Currently, a total number 123 PTI MNAs resignations have been accepted. This decision was strategically taken not just in protest but also as a way to shift the balance in the National Assembly.

3. The U-turn on the United States
Imran Khan has had a rocky relationship with the US in most instances. Following his removal from power, Imran Khan accused the US of being behind the no-confidence motion. However, in a complete 360, he claimed that the US was not being the regime change and took back all blame. This statement comes as Pakistan and the US have become proactive under the PDM government by engaging in defence and count-terrorism issues. Thus, once again Imran Khan has played according to the times.

References
Fakhar Durrani, “Imran Khan’s U-turns score nears a century,” The News International, 14 February 2023

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