Pakistani government is contemplating the postponement of elections due to the challenge of quelling security and political issues that pose a threat to an already financially strained nation
An American news source has released purported information about a confidential diplomatic “cypher,” akin to a secret cable, which implies that the US administration had intentions to topple former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan from his position last year.
Imran Khan was ousted from power in April 2022 after a parliamentary no-confidence vote went against him. While serving in office, Khan claimed awareness of this “cypher.” According to his assertion, the document ostensibly presented evidence that the US had collaborated with his political rivals and the Pakistani military to engineer a plot aimed at his removal.
Later, Khan reversed his stance, expressing a desire for positive relations with the US. However, he continued to assign blame for his ousting to his successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and the military.
Imran Khan’s Detention, Political Uncertainty, and Leaked US Document
Imran Khan is presently confined in Attock jail due to corruption allegations related to the Toshakhana case. He is troubled by the presence of flies and insects in his cell, and he holds concerns about his political future due to a recent ruling that disqualifies him from engaging in active politics for the next five years. He is actively seeking his lawyers’ assistance in securing his release from imprisonment.
On the other hand, Pakistan’s government has been dissolved, with an interim Prime Minister set to assume responsibilities shortly. Against this backdrop, an emerged document from the website Intercept asserts that the US had indeed displayed an interest in the no-confidence motion directed at Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government.
This document, labeled as ‘confidential,’ allegedly originated from an army source within Pakistan and was obtained by the Intercept. This ‘cable’ presents detailed accounts of a meeting involving officials from the US State Department, which includes Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, along with Asad Majeed Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US.
What US official said on no-confidence motion?
The meeting commenced with US official Donald Lu expressing reservations about Pakistan’s stance on the Ukraine issue. According to the document, Donald Lu remarked, “There is a concern both here and in Europe regarding Pakistan’s strongly neutral stance on Ukraine—whether such a stance is even possible.”
He continued, “If the no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister succeeds, Washington will overlook everything, as the Russia visit will be seen as the Prime Minister’s decision. Otherwise, the road ahead will be challenging.”
It’s noteworthy that Imran Khan had undertaken a visit to Moscow on the same day Russia launched an attack on Ukraine. Commenting on Imran Khan’s visit to Russia, Donald Lu stated, “The Prime Minister’s Moscow trip was initially planned during the Beijing Olympics. There was an attempt by the Prime Minister to meet Putin, which didn’t materialize. Subsequently, the decision to visit Moscow was made.”
In response, Pakistan’s ambassador, Asad Majeed, countered that Khan’s Moscow visit had no connection to the Ukraine conflict and had been in the planning stages for several years. “I informed Don that this is a completely mistaken and incorrect perception. The Moscow visit had been in the pipeline for a few years and was the outcome of a deliberate institutional process.”
Imran Khan’s stand on Ukraine-Russia war
The ex-Prime Minister was outspoken regarding his stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. He actively advocated for a neutral position for Pakistan in this war.
“After my return from a trip, Gen Bajwa requested me to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I informed him that Russia, a strategic ally of the US, is maintaining a neutral stance. Hence, Pakistan should also remain neutral,” the former Prime Minister asserted.Imran Khan explicitly emphasized that Pakistan should refrain from taking sides in the conflict. During one of his public speeches, he questioned the pressure exerted by the US on Pakistan’s position, saying, “Kya ham inke naukar hai” (Are we, their servants?).
However, according to the recently disclosed report, this perspective didn’t sit well with the White House, as noted by Asad Majeed in the confidential document. “Don could not have communicated such a forceful stance without direct White House approval, which he repeatedly referenced. It’s evident that Don spoke without considering Pakistan’s internal political dynamics. We need to seriously contemplate this situation and possibly raise the issue with the U.S. Charge d’Affaires a.i. in Islamabad.”
Key Players Behind His Ouster
The removal of Imran Khan from his position as Pakistan’s prime minister, following his defeat in a no-confidence vote in the national assembly, has brought to the forefront several influential figures believed to have played a role in Khan’s departure. The intense assembly session, which extended throughout the entire day, culminated in Imran Khan’s loss in the no-confidence vote within the parliament, thereby concluding a premature tenure marked by a deteriorating economy.
The midnight parliamentary spectacle ensued after weeks of maneuvering by the opposition with the aim of undermining the delicate coalition that Imran Khan had forged around his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in order to assume the premiership in 2018. Now, with Imran Khan no longer in power, here are some of the individuals who are thought to be responsible for his removal.
The leading contender in the race to succeed Imran Khan is Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of the three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been barred from seeking office again and is currently in exile in Britain. A significant political heavyweight in his own right, the 70-year-old Shehbaz Sharif has held the position of chief minister of Punjab, the influential power base of the Sharif family. He currently serves as the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).
What next for Pakistan, and Imran Khan
According to reports, Pakistani government is contemplating the postponement of elections due to the challenge of quelling security and political issues that pose a threat to an already financially strained nation.
The instability in Pakistan has also prompted vigilance from the United States.
“We are naturally concerned about any actions, particularly those involving violence, that could contribute to destabilization in Pakistan or, frankly, any other nation sharing our common counterterrorism interests,” stated White House official John Kirby, as quoted by the news agency AFP.
In the previous general elections of 2018, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) secured the most seats, and the former cricket star assumed the prime minister’s office three days afterward.
As the prospect of general elections looms once again, Pakistan’s military, which has orchestrated at least three successful coups since 1947, casts its influence across the strife-ridden nation anew.
Experts contend that both Khan’s ascent to popularity and his subsequent removal were significantly influenced by the military, with whom he regularly clashed. The former Pakistan cricket captain led a campaign of dissent against the military, asserting its interference in politics. He even accused an intelligence officer of orchestrating a November assassination attempt in which he was shot in the leg. Despite Khan’s endeavors, including staging protests for early elections and withdrawing PTI lawmakers from parliament, his campaign against the military ultimately faltered as he faced more than 200 legal cases.