Islamabad: Facing political challenge and discontent at home, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan appears to think that the United States is behind the Opposition's no-confidence motion (NCM) that aims to remove his government.

Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), "is increasingly promoting a narrative that the international establishment, presumably the US, is behind the current move of the Opposition i.e. no-confidence motion (NCM)," writes Jan Achakzai in an op-ed in The News International (March 7, 2022).

The writer, a politician from Baluchistan and an ex-adviser to the Baluchistan government on media and strategic communication asks, "Is it true and does the US still have such capability of affecting regime change in Pakistan?

Khan has cut out his frequent pronouncements against the US and the West in the wake of his visit to Moscow last month, a day after Russia-Ukraine launched its military operations in Ukraine, observing that he had arrived amidst "a lot of excitement."

He did meet President Vladimir Putin for a photo-op and a general discussion, but no bilateral talks, nor any of the planned agreements were signed. Khan faced a lot of flak at home and in the West, but justified the visit saying it was to "improve bilateral relations."

He resumed his anti-West stance last week and criticised Western envoys in Islamabad for 'pressurising Pakistan" to condemn the Russian invasion in Ukraine. He insisted that Pakistan intends to stay 'neutral.'

Analysts say it is easy to invoke popular anti-West sentiment in Pakistan, although its generals and politician alike have remained pro-West, and benefited from it immensely. Pakistan was a member of the erstwhile CENTO and SEATO military pacts.

After facilitating the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, it was nominated "non-NATO ally" in the "fight against terrorism". But successive US administrations since 2001 have also accused Pakistan governments of "beating on both sides of the drum."

This became more pronounced as Pakistan actively facilitated the return of the Taliban to Kabul last August for which the US had to conduct a hasty and chaotic evacuation.

This factor bolstered the feeling in Washington that the Biden Admin may no longer need the active support of the PTI government in Afghanistan.

Following this, the Biden administration, analysts say, has yet to figure out Pakistan's role post-withdrawal, and in the South Asian region.

Achakzai recalls, "Then the infamous call was not made to PM by President Biden which left the PTI government bitter towards the US Admin. The PTI government boycotted the "Democracy Conference" called in and presided over by the Biden Admin.

The government also failed to put forth any cogent reason for the boycott except linking the move with ostensibly balancing Chinese concerns.

"It would have been better for the PTI government to join the Conference as a confident democratic polity and asserted its stance of any presumed US hypocrisy on democracy," he observes.

The PTI government tried to balance by not joining condemnation of Russia and abstained in UNGA while making statements that implicitly disapprove invasion.

It made the government appear on the wrong side of the US Admin-led international consensus, still. The perception of hard lean on Russia is the last thing the PTI government wants."

Achakzai stresses that "the narrative of the US being behind the no-confidence motion is systematically being promoted to make the PM a political martyr for "defying the US" and is driven largely by a populist streak of the PTI. But the main factors behind the NCM are domestic."