CRITIC OF WASHINGTON
Khan has been a critic of US foreign policy almost throughout his political life. During his years as a rising politician, the former cricket star was among the fiercest critics of US drone attacks targeting militants along the country’s Afghan border, which he termed extra-judicial killings and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
He celebrated the United States’ defeat in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over in 2021 after the withdrawal of NATO and US forces and described it as Afghanistan having broken “the chains of slavery”.
Michael Kugelman, the director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington, thinks Khan’s relentless past criticism means he does not have much sympathy in Washington.
“I expect the US to stay quiet,” Kugelman said.
Khan, 70, is the South Asian nation’s most popular leader, according to opinion polls. A separate brief arrest in May on another set of corruption charges sparked deadly unrest, and ended when the Supreme Court called for him to be released.
As arrests of Khan’s party workers increased after the deadly violence and human rights groups alleged abuse of power by Pakistan’s forces, Kugelman said a strong US stance against the crackdown could have been perceived as taking Khan’s side.
“Khan has burned many bridges in DC. He’s not viewed as a terribly sympathetic figure here these days. So the administration (of President Joe Biden) isn’t keen to go out of its way to do him any favours.”
Kugelman said Pakistan was no longer as big a regional priority for Washington as it was while US forces waged a war in neighbouring Afghanistan.