Why is Imran Khan’s “Conspiracy Theory” Supported?

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In April 2022, the Pakistani Government led by Imran Khan was overthrown due to a vote of confidence in the parliament. Khan claimed that the United States (US) conspired to overthrow the Government.[1] Although Washington denies these allegations, most Pakistani people believe in this “conspiracy theory.”

In recent days, it has been proven in many ways that Pakistanis endorse Khan’s claims against the United States. Many citizens supporting Khan organized anti-government protests in the capital city of Islamabad. During the protests, Khan’s supporters raised their voices against the current government of the United States and Pakistan. Khan brought up the allegations of US conspiracy again during the protests. In addition, conspiracy theories came to the fore in Islamabad, and all rallies were held throughout Pakistan after Khan was overthrown on April 10, 2022.[2]

Khan’s political entry as a famous cricketer has mobilized Pakistan’s younger generation. Because the people of the country have been taking an anti-American stance for a long time. During the change of government, commodity prices increased due to the economic tension in Pakistan, which triggered various dynamics. Maliha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the United States, said, “Khan was trying to use anti-US sentiment to gain public support for him.” made the statement.[3] Although Khan did not provide any evidence for the conspiracy theory, the public believed these theories.

Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, is at the base of Khan’s allegations. Khan claims that Lu met with Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington in March 2022, and in this meeting, the US official stated that Khan should be removed from the post of Prime Minister by a vote of no confidence. In a recent interview with CNN, Khan renewed his claims and stated that Donald Lu had threatened the Pakistani Ambassador, saying that if the government were not overthrown, Pakistan would have to suffer the consequences.[4] However, these accusations were denied by the Washington administration. Khan explained that the Pakistani Ambassador sent a message to the cabinet in March 2022.

Although Khan made a statement at a meeting of the Pakistan National Security Council (NSC), the government in the country changed, and Shahbaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), took over as the Prime Minister. Following the change of Prime Minister, the Council rejected Khan’s allegations and said, “No evidence of conspiracy was found in the message.” made the statement.

As it is known, on February 24, 2022, Russia launched an attack on Ukraine, and on the same day, Khan visited Moscow.[5] Khan believes that the US authorities reacted to him for this reason. In addition, Khan claims that the Pakistan army and Sharif are also involved in the American conspiracy.

Analysts argue that it is necessary to examine the country’s ten-year history to understand why the people of Pakistan believe this conspiracy theory. In the last decade, distrust between Pakistan and the USA has increased therefore, what has happened is a result of this insecurity.

Afghanistan is the leading cause of distrust in the United States among Pakistanis. The US army has been in Afghanistan for over 20 years, and Pakistan has been attacked many times by Afghan-linked terrorists during this period. This is why many Pakistanis believe the American presence in Afghanistan destabilized their country. When US President George W. Bush launched the “anti-terrorism” campaign against Afghanistan in 2001, Pakistan sided with the US as an ally. But as time passed, the distance between the two countries’ governments widened.

Islamabad believes that US drone attacks have killed thousands of people on Pakistani soil. In 2011, American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, in an operation, they carried out in Abbottabad, Pakistan, but did not inform Islamabad about the process. On the other hand, the Pakistani Government of the time considered this move of the USA as an insult. Moreover, in this process, a fake vaccination program was organized by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and DNA data were collected to confirm the existence of Laden in Abbottabad under the name of the vaccination program. Although the program was seen as a successful work by the USA, it caused outrage among the people of Pakistan.

Moreover, in 2011, CIA officer Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis in Lahore and said that these people tried to catch him at gunpoint, so he had to shoot.[6] However, the Pakistani Government described the incident as a murder, and Davis was arrested on charges of murder and illegally possessing weapons. The incident caused tension between the USA and Pakistan. In the explanation made by Washington, it was stated that if Davis were not released, USA’s aid that hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan would be cut. As a result, Davis was released in exchange for more than $2 million in compensation to the families of the killed Pakistani citizens.

All these developments have caused irreparable damage to the sense of trust between the parties. Pakistanis now believe that there are conspiracies against their country. For this reason, Khan’s claim is accepted as accurate. Some analysts state why Khan made anti-US moves related to the historical past of relations between the two countries. Indeed, according to Madiha Afzal, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, a US-based think tank, Khan’s allegations against the US are part of the long history of conspiracy theories in Pakistan. In his words, “Khan claims that Pakistan’s problems are rooted in the corruption of democratic governments that have served at different times.” Afzal reveals the world of thought of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan.[7]

As a result, Khan has enjoyed sympathy from most Pakistanis since he was ousted as Prime Minister. Because Khan’s supporters consider him an alternative to Pakistan’s traditional political leaders. Moreover, the power struggle of the political parties complicates the situation in Pakistan day by day. Because the policies implemented resulted in inflation in the long run. The rupee is depreciating against the dollar, and the government is increasing the tax amount to compensate for this deficit. The burden of all this is on the shoulders of Pakistani citizens. Because of this, many experts believe that Pakistan has benefited from the current crisis. Because thanks to the support he received from the public, his popularity of Khan reached an unprecedented level.

[1] “Pakistan PM Imran Khan Gone After Losing No-Confidence Vote”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 09.04.2022)

[2] “Pakistan’s Ex-PM Denies Deal with Govt, Will Rally In Islamabad Until Elections Announced”, Arab News,, (Date of Accession: 09.04.2022)

[3] “Imran Khan’s Claim of US Conspiracy Has Found a Wide Audience in Pakistan”, Latest Us News Hub,, (Date of Accession: 28.05.2022)

[4] “Imran Khan Demands US Assistant Secretary of State Be Sacked, NDTV,, (Date of Accession: 24.05.2022)

[5] “Imran Khan’s Claim of US Conspiracy Has Found A Wide Audience in Pakistan,” Latest Us News Hub,, (Date of Accession: 28.05.2022)

[6] “CIA Contractor Raymond Davis Freed in Pakistan Killings”, LA Times,, (Date of Accession: 28.05.2022)

[7] “Why So Many Pakistanis in Favor of Imran’s Conspiracy Theory In The United States,”, (Date of Accession: 28.05.2022)

Dr. Md Mostafa FAISAL
Dr. Md Mostafa FAISAL, 2010 yılında Dhaka Üniversitesi Siyaset Bilimi bölümünden lisans ve 2012 yılında yüksek lisans eğitimini tamamladı. 2020 yılının Aralık ayında, Gazi Üniversitesi Kamu Yönetimi ve Siyaset Bilimi bölümünden doktorasını aldı. Dr. Faisal’ın, "Küresel Yönetişim Kapsamında Uluslararası Göç: Rohingya Mülteci Krizi Örneği", "Rohingya Refugee crisis: History of Persecution and Global Migration Governance", "Türk Siyaseti: Atatürk’ten Erdogan’a", "Bangladesh: Caretaker Government Past and Present" adlı 4 adet kitabı bulunmaktadır. Başlıca ilgi alanları, Asya çalışmaları, Güney Asya çalışmaları ve Uluslararası Göç ve Mülteciler’dir. Dr. Faisal iyi derecede İngilizce, Türkçe ve Bengalce bilmektedir.