Khan and Blome’s battle of narratives in Lahore

Last Monday was quite a day for the citizens of Lahore. In the noon, former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan addressed the students of Government College University Lahore while in the evening, US Ambassador Donald Blome had a reception in a local hotel.

Now the connection between two events is quite clear. In his speech, Khan asked the students to name the person whom the US wanted to give a message thorough the “regime change” and students chanted “Neutrals”.

In March, while addressing a public gathering, Khan waved a white paper and told the audience that he had received a letter that was proof that his government was toppled through the interference of a foreign country. Since then, the whole country was curious to know exactly what was written in the letter. High-level official meetings are still not able to give a clear answer of this question whether the vote-of-no-confidence against Khan’s government was a conspiracy or just the exercise of a democratic right.

Khan’s address in one of the most prestigious institutes of the provincial capital brought a lot of criticism from the opposition and also from the former and current students of the institute. Many blamed Vice Chancellor Asghar Zaidi for allowing the educational institution to be used for political gains. Khan later gave a detailed explanation to the media in which he clarified that the event was organized by the Punjab government.

On one hand, where the oval ground of Government College University was filled with students, there was a long queue in the evening to meet the ambassador of the United States. People from different walks of life had gathered to welcome the ambassador of the country which just hours ago faced a very serious accusation from the former premier of the state.

Politicians, educationists, journalists, anthropologists, entrepreneurs and a large number of civil and human rights activists were introducing themselves to Donald Blome.

While speaking at the event, Ambassador Blome said that Pakistan and US’s relationship is entering a new phase and US has always been the supporter of the people of Pakistan. He also shared the details of assistance from US for the people who have been affected by the floods, and the history of US investment in Pakistan.

He also said that in the past 75 years, both the countries had benefited from this strong partnership and expressed confidence that those enduring ties would continue to flourish far into the future.

In the next three days, the ambassador had multiple engagements that also included the meetings with Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi and Governor Balighur Rehman. Elahi became the chief minister of the province with the support of Khan’s party and the federal cabinet approved the appointment of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Rehman in May.

Coming back to the day when Khan and Blome both addressed the citizens of Lahore, one can surely draw a conclusion about how local and foreign politics work. Though Khan repeated again and again that the US was behind his government’s removal, it did not stop Elahi, who became the Punjab chief minister with support of Khan’s party, from meeting the US ambassador.

His dual approach of levelling accusations and also wanting to have good relations with the US has cost him a lot. A diplomatic source, asked about how he felt about these accusations while the US is supporting Pakistan through the tough times it is facing, said that for politicians, this blame game has worked wonders, but people had to see that the US had always been Pakistan’s friend.