Reham Khan Discusses the Ouster of Imran Khan & the Future of Pakistan
Reham Khan corrected me when I first referred to Imran Khan as her ‘ex-husband’ during an interview on May 6th. The British-Pakistani journalist prefers to refer to Mr. Khan as the 'ousted prime minister of Pakistan'.
In our conversation, Ms. Khan commented on how the 22nd Prime Minister came into power and how he was removed from office. “His ouster is not something to celebrate. The fact that his [removal] was done following parliamentary norms and parliamentary rules and strictly constitutional allowances – that is a first for Pakistan,” said Khan.
She also spoke about the US-Pakistan relationship post-Taliban takeover and offered insight into how a bilateral relationship may evolve with the US. “There needs to be confidence building. [There's] no plan in the future [where you] can back out on Pakistan.
Pakistan might not have the leverage that we once had over the Taliban. [B]ut we do have influence, and the influence I hope, is a positive one where the Taliban [is] a 2.0 version of themselves,” said Khan.
Jordan: How would you describe Pakistan’s relationship with the US [since] we pulled out of Afghanistan?
Reham: Post-Taliban takeover, we have been used as a scapegoat. The US has conveniently forgotten that this was a unilateral decision, it wasn’t even as if they took NATO into confidence when they were pulling out.
Since August everyone has left the Afghans and I mean people on the street. I don’t mean the Taliban and I don’t mean the government. That is beside the point. Women and children have been left to starve. And nobody has volunteered to help.
I think it is unfair to blame Pakistan for the Taliban and to suggest that the Taliban [is] our project, or to paint the picture as if we have anything to do with the takeover. I think the responsibility, if anything, should be shared or put on the shoulders of the US policymakers. I think scapegoating Pakistan is unhelpful to the US.
There hasn’t ever been a feeling that America is investing in our people or in our future. I think it is a failure of the diplomacy of the Americans. [T]hey really need to build that goodwill gesture, that feeling that you are a friend and not someone who is a taskmaster.
Look at the CPEK, for example. It is an economic corridor, which is going to be hugely helpful to China. But the way it has been sold to Pakistan is that it is going to bring prosperity. Whether that happens by 2028 or 2032 is yet to be seen but it [is] much better advertising and marketing. It is better diplomacy.
Equally, I think the Taliban has a much better relationship with China because [their relationship] isn’t based on demonizing them. It is not based on vilifying them. And even if it is not a sincere gesture, it is a very well-balanced diplomatic gesture by the Chinese. So, I think the Americans need to learn a thing or two from other states that are looking to build a relationship with Pakistan, Afghanistan, [and] with Iran.
Jordan: The ousted prime minister is described as having a hybrid government, but that seems to me to be a bit of a spin on what has been done before? [I]s the difference that he didn’t represent a political dynasty?
Reham: Yes, he is not from a background which [represents] dynastic politics, that’s true. [But] there is a marked difference between this last regime [and] why it is called a hybrid regime. [It’s] because it was a selection not an election.
If you have the most popular party with a large mandate kept out of the voting process because they don’t have a choice, then that isn’t like any other election in Pakistan. [It] is what we refer to as ‘people engineering’ and of course [these are] what we like to refer to as ‘electables’.
These are chosen and presented to form any coalition. These are people who will go to any party that is about to come into power. And they get the green signal to sort of give their loyalty to any party. So that is also part of the people engineering. So, therefore we call it the hybrid regime.