[Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 3, 2023, at Exile in Happy Valley].
Imran Khan should not be confused with a hero. He is really more of a dick, which I believe is the politically correct term for 'politician' now that most westerners have soured on 'pig-raping cunt-devil.' An international cricket star with a flair for the camera, Khan was part of a global trend of wealthy conmen posing as populist savior figures. He successfully ran for Pakistan's perpetually embattled premiership in 2018 under the banner of his Movement for Justice (PTI) Party with the promise of taking on the financial gangsters in the IMF and overseeing the institution of a grand "Islamic welfare state."
What Khan delivered upon his victory was really more of a series of concessions to his fellow elites, asking Pakistan's working class to shoulder the weight of a globally mandated austerity regime while the oligarchs who financed Khan's campaign continued to count their bounty untaxed and unmolested. It's for these reasons and many more that it has been very easy to discount Imran Khan's claims to be the victim of an American conspiracy to keep him out of power as just another theatrical circus trick by a daft political acrobat but just because you're a dick doesn't mean that they're not after you.
Pakistan has been a nation in catastrophic upheaval since Imran Khan was ousted as Prime Minister after an abrupt no-confidence vote in parliament last year. Such an event can't exactly be seen as particularly shocking considering that in the last 75 years no prime minister of an elected government in Pakistan has ever completed a full five year term, but the timing of this latest legislative coup is more than a little suspicious.
After Khan provoked the ire of the western foreign policy establishment by refusing to join them in freezing out Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine, America's Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu, met with Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan (no relation) the day before the telltale vote took place. Imran insists that the US demanded at this meeting that the Pakistani establishment, desperate for American aid, purge the prime minister from their ranks and cables recently leaked to the Intercept by anonymous military sources seem to corroborate this story.
Unsurprisingly, Imran Khan has refused to go silently into that good night. In the months that have followed his ouster, with Pakistan teetering precariously on the brink of outright civil war, Khan's supporters in the PTI have held massive and at times downright violent demonstrations targeting the embattled playboy's former allies in the nation's notoriously corrupt military. The military in turn has lashed back with increasingly draconian crackdowns on dissidents that have seen thousands arrested and tried before military tribunals as a slew of laws have been passed crushing civil liberties, criminalizing criticism of the armed forces and granting those forces veto power over virtually all political and civil affairs.
During this time, Khan himself has been arrested, shot and arrested again as he continues an increasingly quixotic crusade to reclaim his leadership. His latest arrest on corruption charges has seen him barred from political office for five years in the months leading up to an election that most polls show Khan leading and this is where that dick's enemies find themselves in a potentially violent jam. The more aggressively the system opposes the former premier's demands for democratic restitution, the guiltier they look to a nation sick and tired of being the plaything of international power brokers, and confronting those powers was the one thing that Imran Khan did right.
For however you or I may feel about Mr. Khan and his dubious ambitions, the man is not being persecuted for the sin of corruption. That crime comes with the territory of running any state, especially in the post-colonial mire of the third world. No, Imran Khan was targeted because he is a neutralist, specifically in regard to the west's newly revived cold war against Russia and China. Secretary Lu made this quite clear during his thinly veiled threats at the Pakistani Embassy exposed by the Intercept. Before stating ominously that "I think if the no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister succeeds, all will be forgiven in Washington" that vaunted statesman mused in all his marbled omnipotence that "People here and in Europe are quite concerned about why Pakistan is taking such an aggressively neutral position, if such a position is even possible."
Such a position is very possible as Khan has proved in spades. Not only had he refused to get involved in the NATO-Putin proxy war over Ukraine, but he had also strengthened ties with his neighbors in China and refused to offer the US military access to Pakistani bases as they fled their twenty-year clusterfuck with his other neighbors in Afghanistan. This is why America has slashed its military aid to Pakistan by hundreds of millions of dollars since Khan took power, sending a clear message to the Pakistani Military elites that America does not tolerate friends who refuse to share our enemies without reservation.
This is the primary reason that a jaded anarchist like me was willing to take a pig-raping cunt-devil like Imran Khan at his word on his cries of American conspiracy even before the evidence began piling up with the dead bodies in the streets. As an obsessive-compulsive student of empire, I have heard this story before, and it doesn't end well for anybody. The only thing more severe than Washington's hatred for the mortal sin of neutrality are the downright grotesque lengths that they seem willing to go to snuff it out. You can ask the ghost of Sukarno if you don't believe me.
Much like Khan, Sukarno was no hero. He was an authoritarian dick who came to be Indonesia's first president for life by collaborating with the Japanese and was more than happy to accept gifts from the American Military Industrial Complex to help him solidify his rule over a massive archipelago that never should have been consolidated beneath a single centralized authority in the first place. But Sukarno was also a wildcard with an independent streak. You know, the type of dick you'd like to share an opium pipe with. A founding father of the Non-Aligned Movement that sought to keep the third world out of the original Cold War, Sukarno insisted on maintaining ties to China and the Soviet Union and refused to crackdown on his nation's communist party, the PKI, which at 3 million strong was the largest cadre of its kind outside of the Sino-Soviet Bloc.
For these heinous alliances, our boy Sukarno had to go. After years of failed plots that involved everything from bankrolling worthy secessionist movements to producing phony sex tapes with Sukarno stunt doubles (seriously), the US used the murder of six top Indonesian generals in what now appears to have been a false flag attack to put Sukarno's top general, Suharto, in power in 1965. What followed was a year of savage bloodlust that should go down in history as one of the worst acts of mass barbarism of the past century.
Under the explicit direction of the CIA and the American Embassy in Jakarta, Suharto's military carried out the liquidation of an entire political party, slaughtering somewhere between 1 and 3 million men, women and children for their affiliation with the PKI as American officials gleefully checked thousands of names off a detailed hit list supplied to the killers. This is how America responds to aggressive neutrality. Sukarno got off easy, dying relatively comfortably under house arrest in 1970. The nation he founded has never recovered and I fear the same fate for Pakistan, specifically the mostly working-class proles in the PTI fighting for Khan in the streets. They're already being rounded up like animals. How long before America decides to finish the job with another friendly visit to the Pakistani embassy?
Dicks like Imran Khan and Sukarno don't deserve such loyalty and their willingness to sell it out has been well recorded. But this is bigger than the egos of powerful mavericks or even the empires that they chafe. This is about poor people who are sick and fucking tired of being caught between the rich and their stupid fucking wars. Why should Pakistan get involved in the Donbass any more than Ukraine should get involved in Kashmir?
Wouldn't we all be better off if we just ended these imperial military alliances once and for all and stuck to our own goddamn neighborhoods? Wouldn't that send a far stronger message to meddling thugs like Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden? This commonsense populist approach to anti-imperialism is what a truly aggressive neutrality is really all about and this is why empires like America have to stamp it out in places like Islamabad and Jakarta. Because they know how affective the threat of a good example can be on their own unruly proles in places like Pittsburgh and Warsaw.
Our best hope as stateless anti-imperialists is to divorce these movements from the dicks and their parties as well as any other form of institutional leadership for that matter, to recognize neutrality as the only form of globalism that works because it encourages the diversity and self-sufficiency that all other forms of political universalism crush. When the non-interventionism of this civilized autonomy finally surpasses the political and returns to its proper role as a basic cultural trait implicit in every village, not only will imperialism fail, it will be rendered totally obsolete.
My stubborn commitment to revolutionary optimism leaves me with few other choices but to grind my teeth and look forward to this day, with or preferably without Imran Khan.