On April 10, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted from power following a no-confidence vote in Pakistan’s parliament. Khan’s removal followed months of his claims, absent of evidence, that sinister foreign forces were conspiring against him.
The sudden departure of Khan has upset some of his more fervent supporters in the West. In recent years, many had grown particularly close to the Pakistani regime under Khan.
Abdullah al Andalusi, a leading British Islamist activist, compared Khan to the jailed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi – a leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – who was deposed in 2013.
Many furthered Khan’s conspiracy theories of a plot against him, ostensibly arranged by Western powers.
Sajjad Burki – a Houston-based Islamist activist who served as the former head of the U.S. branch of Khan’s political party, the PTI, and headed the regime influence operation, the International Humanitarian Foundation – despaired that Khan’s departure was “regime change.”
Abdel Bari Atwan, a leading supporter of Palestinian Islamism and editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm, was more direct – accusing America of have removed Khan because of his noble support for the Taliban and opposition to Israel.
Omar Baloch, a notorious American radical cleric with a history of violent and anti-Jewish obsessions, published a video also comparing Khan to Morsi, blaming Israel and promoting various other conspiracy theories.
Meanwhile, Yasir Qadhi, a better-respected imam (albeit with his own extremist history), lamented Khan’s departure, deeming him a “genuine, sincere, religious Prime Minister,” and blamed his departure on “back-hand deals and corrupt forces involved.”
At 5Pillars, a leading British Islamist news site, multiple pieces backed up Khan’s claims of a foreign conspiracy. Its editor, Rohsan Salih, blamed the “United States and its stooges.”
There is perhaps a reason for Western Islamists’ fondness for Khan. In 2019, following India’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan worked hard to advance Islamist agendas within American politics and impose its influence over American Muslims, all as Khan was busy pushing various methods of “Islamization” across Pakistan.
In September 2019, Khan addressed a conference organized by a leading American Islamist organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Subsequently, Khan and his regime appointed new representatives within American Muslim communities, partnered with radical Western Islamist charities operating in South Asia, and set up new organizations in the U.S. that worked in close collaboration with multiple leading American Islamist groups.
Across the West, Islamists had become increasingly enthralled by Khan’s growing stature in the Muslim world, especially as Pakistan’s relationship with the United States grew tense.
It is presently too early to tell if Western Islamists will enjoy close relations with the new Pakistani administration, and whether that the new government will continue to advance Khan’s Islamization program in Pakistan, or persevere with the regime’s past influence operations to coopt and offer patronage to Islamists across the West.