Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text
On April 3, the Parliament of Pakistan was dissolved just moments before a decision was to be taken on a vote of no confidence in the country's Prime Minister Imran Khan. However, such a radical measure did not save him – the Supreme Court restored the National Assembly. Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has lost support in parliament from coalition allies, and the former prime minister himself, apparently, has lost the support of the armed forces - one of the key forces in the country.
As a result, Imran Khan was dismissed, and PTI resigned from parliament shortly before the scheduled election of a new prime minister.
On April 11, Parliament elected a new prime minister – Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is known for being sentenced to ten years in prison on corruption charges in 2017. However, now the punishment is likely to be reviewed.
Apparently, Sharif will serve as prime minister until the next elections, which are scheduled for August 2023.
All this shows that there is a deep political crisis in Pakistan, which has been brewing for a long time.
During almost the entire term of Khan's tenure, double-digit inflation was observed in the country, and the decision to lower domestic prices for fuel and electricity only increased the budget deficit and exacerbated problems with the balance of payments. The rupee has fallen to a historic low.
Moreover, in the future, the Pakistani rupee will face further devaluation pressure. Moreover, if the new government fails to resume the country's participation in the IMF program, which provides for expanded financing and ensure the remaining payments, this may lead to the termination of external financing. In addition, if the US Federal Reserve tightens its monetary policy even more than markets expect, this could increase the volatility of the already weakened rupee.
Pakistan's GDP per capita is very low and stands at about US$ 1,500 as of fiscal year 2021. Income inequality is high both vertically (that is, between different segments of society) and horizontally (at the regional level, between different provinces). The illiteracy rate of the population is very high, especially in rural areas and among women, and, accordingly, the level of education is extremely low.
As for the foreign policy vector, Islamabad under Khan significantly distanced itself from Washington. The attempt to establish a neutral foreign policy and the recent negotiations with Moscow probably became the last straw for the United States and the pro-American elites in Pakistan itself. Experts of the Institute of the Middle East (IBV) believe that despite the fact that Prime Minister Khan's trip to Moscow met with approval from the military, it did not become an important argument in their attitude towards Khan.
Disagreements between the Prime Minister and the military have worsened against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the controversial appointment in October 2021 of the former commander of the Baloch Border Regiment and army headquarters in Karachi, Lieutenant General Nadim Anjum, to the post of head of the Interdepartmental Intelligence of the Armed Forces (ISI).
On March 27, Khan showed a letter claiming that the United States had sent a diplomatic warning to Pakistan about his removal from the post of prime minister. However, such a loud accusation did not help. For example, retired Major General Atar Abbas said that "the reaction [in the armed forces - ed.] to the question of whether his [letter – ed.] use to intervene in a situation with a vote of no confidence, ambiguous." The military also accused Khan of discrediting the image of the army in society during his reign.
Many experts note that regardless of whether the United States is taking part in the political crisis in Pakistan or not, the economic situation in the country will continue to deteriorate, which in turn may provoke new large-scale protests.
With the escalation of the confrontation, the likelihood that the military will still intervene increases. And given the fact that the opposition parties seem to have abandoned anti-war rhetoric in their criticism of Khan, most likely they no longer perceive the security forces as supporters of the former leader of the country. This means that the military will not intervene to ensure Khan's political survival.
However, American analysts from IHS Global Insight emphasize that there are real risks that the military may go for a direct seizure of power in order to maintain shaky stability in the country until the next early elections. However, this is not the most likely scenario for today.
It is much more likely that the opposition, which has gained power, will try to keep it until the next elections in order to further legitimize its rule.
There is another risk that is not being actively considered today. The Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) reported that in the coming months, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP, a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) is likely to intensify attacks on the Pakistani military. On March 30, TTP announced a new offensive against the country's security forces during Ramadan after claiming responsibility for an attack on a military complex that killed at least six Pakistani soldiers.
Speaking about the long-term prospects for Pakistan, we note that the unfolding political crisis may last for years, including due to problems in the economic and security spheres. The situation with the clan structure of the political life of the country is also getting worse. Although the main parties have ideological differences, they are mostly dominated by individuals or families, which has led to accusations of nepotism, patronage and corruption and is also a reason for protests and riots.
American analysts emphasize in their reports that the best scenario for Pakistan will be the preservation of civilian power, provided that the military bloc continues to restrain radicalization and Islamist militancy. At the same time, it is noted that the country must maintain its pro-Western course, which confirms, if not direct, then indirect US participation in the overthrow of Khan. Especially considering that in their forecasts they regularly use the words "separatism", "democracy", "values", etc.
Americans consider the coming to power of a radical Islamist regime that has no sympathy for the United States to be an unfavorable scenario. At the same time, Washington's ability to put pressure on Islamabad will be significantly limited by the presence of the latter's nuclear weapons. However, experts also state that there is no leader in Pakistan today who is similar in level to the Iranian leader of the Islamic Revolution, Khomeini, or his closest ally, the Great Ayatollah Khamenei.
For Moscow, the events in Pakistan pose risks mainly from the point of view of the implementation of major projects between the two countries.
First of all, this is the "Pakistani Stream". Despite the fact that its capacity is relatively small, only 12.4 billion cubic meters of gas per year (for comparison, the capacity of the Turkish Stream is 31.5 billion cubic meters per year) in conditions when it is necessary to redirect blue fuel to the east, any pipelines are important. So it is not surprising that during Khan's visit to Moscow, the "Pakistani Stream" was expected to become one of the key topics of negotiations.