In a series of daring moves, the Imran Khan government ratified barter trade agreements with Afghanistan and Iran on February 24, 2022. Adding to the intrigue, Khan presented a proposal for a similar agreement with Russia during his visit to Moscow on February 23-24, 2022. These unconventional deals, aimed at de-dollarizing trade and implementing currency swap mechanisms, immediately drew sharp criticism from the Pakistani public.
Many pro-US politicians and social segments wondered why Khan would risk creating distance between Pakistan and the United States, a long-standing ally. The concerns were exacerbated when, the very next day, a motion of no confidence was submitted against Khan’s premiership in the national assembly. Whispers of US and CIA involvement in orchestrating this political move grew louder, with allegations of coalition-building aided by former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and the US embassy.
Even figures from abroad weighed in on the matter. Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Pakistan, endorsed the allegations in a tweet on March 5, 2023. Furthermore, John Bolton, the US representative in the UN, supported the notion of a CIA-backed coup with the help of the Pakistani army.
However, the post-Imran government has found itself compelled to revisit the barter trade initiative with Afghanistan, Iran, and Russia on June 2, 2023. This comes as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) refused to engage with Pakistan until there is a return to constitutional order and democratic norms. The Guardian even reported that the “Pakistan military should back to the barracks.” The question lingers: Was Imran Khan wrong in pursuing these barter trade agreements? How does the post-Imran government justify its actions now as it rekindles this initiative?
The United States, having previously supported this government’s rise to power with the aid of the CIA, now appears angered by its course of action. Strikingly, this government continues to cling to the US dollar regime despite the IMF’s refusal to engage and criticism from the United States. Deterioration in US-Pak relations also causes suppression of Pakistani citizens having dual nationalities, hold United States naturalization, yet still pledge their support to Imran Khan.
As the nation grapples with these contentious developments, the future of Pakistan’s trade relationships and its place on the global stage hang in a delicate balance. The political turmoil and international tensions surrounding these barter trade agreements cast a shadow of uncertainty over the country’s economic and diplomatic future.