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Over a year ago Imran Khan produced a document at a public rally and described it as a diplomatic cable which proved the United States was leading a secret campaign to oust him as prime minister. His opponents, and the international community, shrugged off the allegations. He was Pakistan’s first ever prime minister to have been forced from office through a no confidence motion in April 2022, by the National Assembly.
This week, The Intercept has published a bombshell report based on a diplomatic “cypher” – or a secret cable – which appears to vindicate Khan’s prior assertions of a conspiracy against him by Washington. Crucially, it points to Khan’s weakness on the Ukraine war as a prime motivating factor in the US seeking his removal.
“The US State Department encouraged the Pakistani government in a March 7, 2022, meeting to remove Imran Khan as prime minister over his neutrality on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a classified Pakistani government document obtained by The Intercept,” according to the Wednesday report.
It was only in the following month that Khan was booted from office as prime minister based on parliament’s unprecedented no confidence vote.
The newly revealed diplomatic cable has shed light on the crucial meeting with the US delegation that took place in the lead-up to Khan’s ouster. The Intercept describes:
The meeting, between the Pakistani ambassador to the United States and two State Department officials, has been the subject of intense scrutiny, controversy, and speculation in Pakistan over the past year and a half, as supporters of Khan and his military and civilian opponents jockeyed for power. The political struggle escalated on August 5 when Khan was sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges and taken into custody for the second time since his ouster. Khan’s defenders dismiss the charges as baseless. The sentence also blocks Khan, Pakistan’s most popular politician, from contesting elections expected in Pakistan later this year.
One month after the meeting with U.S. officials documented in the leaked Pakistani government document, a no-confidence vote was held in Parliament, leading to Khan’s removal from power. The vote is believed to have been organized with the backing of Pakistan’s powerful military. Since that time, Khan and his supporters have been engaged in a struggle with the military and its civilian allies, whom Khan claims engineered his removal from power at the request of the
The precise timing of the high level meeting is also very important, having occurred less than two week after then PM Khan visited Moscow on February 24, which was the very day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – the start of Putin’s “special military operation”.
The March 7th meeting involved Pakistan’s then-ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed, and Donald Lu, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. The diplomatic cable reveals that during the conversation Lu asserted that the US and European allies are “quite concerned” about Khan’s trip to Moscow and Pakistan having taken an “aggressively neutral position” on the Ukraine war under his leadership.
🧵 THREAD: United States helped engineer a coup against Pakistan's PM Imran Khan because of his neutral stance on Ukraine.— Richard Medhurst (@richimedhurst) August 10, 2023
I've covered this story for over a year and everything Khan claimed has been confirmed yet again. I've said on numerous occasions that what really angered… pic.twitter.com/7Vja1uOz1U
“People here and in Europe are quite concerned about why Pakistan is taking such an aggressively neutral position (on Ukraine), if such a position is even possible. It does not seem such a neutral stand to us,” Lu reportedly said in the meeting. He added: “it seems quite clear that this is the Prime Minister’s policy,” according to the cable cited in The Intercept.
Below is the key and damning part of what was said next, according to the secret cable:
“I think if a no-confidence vote against the prime minister succeeds, all will be forgiven in Washington because the Russia visit is being looked at as a decision by the prime minister. Otherwise, I think it will be tough going ahead,” Lu is alleged to have told Majeed, who sent the details of the conversation in the “cypher” to Islamabad.
It is this “all will be forgiven” line that’s being seen as the smoking gun, putting Washington as a key mover behind-the-scenes in the lead-up to the no confidence vote.
The Intercept then spells out, “One month after the meeting with US officials documented in the leaked Pakistani government document, a no-confidence vote was held in Parliament, leading to Khan’s removal from power.”
Currently, the report and news of the leaked cable is going viral across Pakistani and Indian media, and will likely spark further widespread pro-Khan protests, coming just after he was again taken into custody and sits in jail. Prior protests have at times descended into violence.
United States confirmed that documents published on Asad Majeed and Donald Lu conversation on Imran Khan was kind of accurate but made it clear that United States was not involved in any conspiracy. He confirmed United States was concerned of Imran Khan visit of Moscow and his… pic.twitter.com/njc6EHrhZq— Jahanzaib Ali (@JazzyARY) August 9, 2023
The White House has meanwhile called his arrest an “internal matter” and has decried as “false” the allegations that the US orchestrated his ouster of his Ukraine stance. The State Department in a Wednesday daily press briefing declared the US wasn’t involved in any conspiracy, even when presented with the leaked cable’s contents.