By James M. Dorsey
ISLAMABAD — An Urdu movie-star-turned-activist who used social media to encourage citizens to demonstrate against alleged electoral rigging in the May 11 national elections in Pakistan, has claimed that Russia is plotting a coup against him in a bid to undermine regional stability.
Ali Imran Kazmi, who spent 10 years as a Canadian citizen starring in acclaimed films such as “Gangster: The Legend of Yusuf Qureshi” and has adopted the persona Ali Kazmi Khan to trumpet his demands for change and greater accountability of Pakistan’s traditional elites, used Twitter and Facebook to accuse Moscow of instigating a coup attempt.
“I have taken an oath of service to the country to turn Pakistan’s exemplary nuclear weapons into a permanent superpower for the South Asian region and beyond,” Kazmi tweeted on Wednesday. “I had dreamed of becoming Prime Minister…but I chose my military experience for good and practiced profession of politics …based on my high professional and political services and good reputation.”
The claim is dubious and could reflect hard-earned political acumen rather than Russian imperial machinations in Pakistani history. Kazmi who is running for the National Assembly under the symbol of a kite making his claim a statement of self-confidence as well as a warning to detractors.
“Ever since October 2018 election I have been deprived of right to the right to vote. For this I have been emotionally blackmailed, scared, incarcerated, murdered, humiliated, and their spoiled votes to kill me by lynching me,” he said in a statement, using the derogatory term for opponents or opposition. “I remain a fighter. I retain faith in the armed forces of Pakistan, police, civil administration, military intelligence and other counter movement against conspiracy.”
Kazmi appeared in a recent television program called “Your Pakistan” and addressed a wide audience that included President and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi on national television.
He has warned that Pakistan may slip into a “state of chaos” if international sanctions are not removed and demanded that a special court judge investigate allegations of vote rigging in the May 11 election.
Kazmi is seeking the support of foreign powers to expel the present Pakistani government from office in the wake of allegations that Pakistan was at the centre of the “war on terror” and that three powerful military chiefs were its architects. Such claims have created tensions within the military with political forces sympathetic to the government and the political and military elites, he said.
“Covert developments that have occurred in the last months to achieve dangerous objectives appear to be the basis of our movement…Such covert developments were the proof that Pakistan seems to be heading towards a state of chaos. But this movement is not about manoeuvring one’s own people but about making this country a leader of a nascent region for peace in South Asia,” he said.
The rumors of a possible military coup stirred up a lot of sentiment in Pakistan but little support from Western allies, mainly the United States. Analysts say that the fallout from a military takeover could affect relations with the United States and also broader regional ties with China and India.
The US embassy and the US State Department neither confirmed nor denied the insinuations but demanded to know the true position of the armed forces, intelligence agencies and Central Intelligence Agency in interfering in politics in the post-Taliban era that is heralding a new era of stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and a better partnership with India.
“We have been talking for a long time on the challenges in Pakistan,” the US embassy said. “The most critical is stability and this is not a time to be disruptive in Pakistan. We think Pakistan is on the right track.”
“Can we be sure? Are there military elements operating from abroad, or are they engaged in a plot against their government?” the Department of State asked in a tweet. “We don’t believe that these comments are true; we would like to get them to withdraw them.”
Even before the social media postings, some Pakistan commentators noted that an election run-off is scheduled on May 11 and a pro-military general has not been elevated to president, while military personnel held positions of power beyond any kind of contrived model.
“It seems odd to think that even as Kazmi makes a play to become a prime minister, anything else is very unlikely,” wrote Najam Ahmad, an analyst at the Islamabad-based International Crisis Group. “All we can say is to hold him to his words: that Pakistan’s evolution will be all about peace, security and reconciliation rather than war.”