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Pakistan’s political chaos could spill over – analysis

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Pakistan’s political chaos could spill over - analysis

What matters is that Pakistan is a populous, nuclear-armed nation that maintains its historic rivalry with India. This means that countries around Pakistan are maneuvering in this new world order.

Political chaos looms in Pakistan as the country’s National Assembly is trying to convene to remove its leader Imran Khan as prime minister.

Khan is a divisive figure who came to power in 2018. He styles himself as a populist but has also been soft on extremism and terror groups. Trying to survive the attempt to unseat him, he has begun to blame foreign conspiracies. It is entirely possible that whatever happens today or this week in Pakistan could unleash extremism and spill over into other countries. This is because Pakistan has been a key backer of the Taliban in Afghanistan — and Khan is an ally of other Islamist-oriented political parties, from Malaysia to Turkey.

According to media reports, Khan’s PTI Party has suffered some setbacks and some of the leader’s allies are deserting him.

The BBC notes that “a simple majority of 172 in the 342-seat National Assembly against the former cricket legend would cut short his tenure as PM. On Wednesday, the magic number was breached when his main coalition ally, the MQM, joined the opposition. It means on paper that the opposition now commands 175 votes to the government’s 164.”

Pakistan’s parliament speaker rejected the opposition’s no-confidence motion against Khan on Sunday. But it may come back – and the chaos and controversy could cause other problems.  

As usual, it is not clear who is behind the efforts to get rid of Khan. “To many observers, the genesis of the current crisis can be traced back to October when Mr. Khan refused to sign off on the appointment of a new chief of Pakistan’s powerful ISI intelligence agency,”the BBC said. 

The ISI was the architect of backing the Taliban back in the 90s. Pakistan has long had shadowy ties to extremists and terror groups that have targeted the West and India. For instance, Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden fled to Pakistan and was found living next to a military academy in a key city there.

The country has also suffered from extremists who have attacked schools, minorities and women. Pakistan is one of the countries where religious extremists often murder minority Christians and Hindus after accusing them of “blasphemy.” As such, the country is one of the most far-right extremist countries in the world, with a veneer of democracy that it holds up because it still has some kind of parliamentary politics.

Back in 1999, the country had a military coup and was run by Pervez Musharraf. He left office in 2008. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007. Other key leaders in the country’s recent history have been convicted of corruption and other crimes, including Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam. All of this makes for uncertain politics, with political rivals trying to imprison each other, and a legal system that can only barely keep up with the charges of corruption and other issues that plague the political system.

What matters is that Pakistan is a populous, nuclear-armed nation that maintains its historic rivalry with India. India recently hosted Russia’s foreign minister, and Iran’s foreign minister was in China. This means that countries around Pakistan are maneuvering in this new world order.

Pakistan’s Khan has long sought to champion a multi-polar world free from US power and hegemony. He dislikes the United States and uses populist fervor against the Americans. As such, he could unleash extremist demons that lurk in Pakistan. The country has long tried to balance normalized politics with the shadowy intelligence agency that backs extremists who have targeted India and who backed the Taliban.

What might come next if Khan is pushed out — or if he holds onto power but there is violence?

This matters because Pakistan is also a friend of Gulf countries in the Gulf and former Pakistani leaders have found their way there.

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