“U.S. Reportedly Warned Pakistan of Isolation if Imran Khan Wasn’t Removed”

“Warning of Isolation: U.S. Allegedly Raised Concerns About Pakistan’s Leadership Amid Calls for Imran Khan’s Removal”

Over the past year and a half, a meeting involving the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. and two officials from the U.S. State Department has garnered significant attention, sparking debates, controversies, and widespread speculation within Pakistan. This event unfolded amid power struggles between the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, his military counterparts, and civilian opponents.

In Washington DC, a meeting that transpired on March 7, 2022, between the Pakistani ambassador to the US and two officials from the US State Department has been spotlighted due to revelations that the US urged the Pakistani government to remove Imran Khan from his role as Prime Minister. The reasoning cited was Khan’s perceived neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This information was disclosed through a classified Pakistani government document cited by the US-based news outlet The Intercept.

This meeting, which occurred amidst a backdrop of intense political maneuvering and power struggles in Pakistan, has garnered substantial attention and controversy over the past eighteen months. This period was marked by confrontations between the former Prime Minister and his adversaries, spanning both military and civilian factions, as they jockeyed for control.

The tension escalated further on August 5 when Imran Khan received a three-year prison sentence on corruption charges, as reported by The Intercept. However, Khan’s supporters vehemently denied these allegations, terming them unfounded. Notably, this court decision also renders Khan ineligible to participate in the upcoming polls expected later this year in Pakistan.

Approximately a month following the revelation of the meeting’s details in the Pakistani government document, a parliamentary no-confidence vote resulted in Khan’s removal from power. The vote was believed to have received backing from Pakistan’s influential military, suggesting a significant level of orchestration. Since his removal, Imran Khan and his supporters have engaged in a struggle against both the army and their civilian allies, who reportedly played a role in his ousting at the behest of the US.

Back in March of the previous year, Imran Khan had raised concerns of a “foreign conspiracy.” During a national address, Khan expressed that a foreign power had conveyed a message that he needed to be removed, or else Pakistan would face consequences. He referenced a “foreign conspiracy letter” that he presented at a public rally on March 27, claiming that there was an external effort, funded from abroad, to destabilize his government.

The classified Pakistani cable, generated from the ambassador’s account of the meeting and shared with Pakistan, has unveiled the strategies employed by the US State Department in their efforts against Khan. The document reportedly outlines assurances of improved relations with Islamabad if Khan were to step down and the possibility of isolation if he remained in power.

The cable, labeled as ‘Secret,’ recounts the meeting involving US State Department officials, including Donald Lu, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and Asad Majeed Khan, the then-Pakistani Ambassador to the US. The Intercept reportedly obtained this document from an anonymous source within the Pakistani military.

The cable illustrates the incentives and pressure points utilized by the US State Department in their campaign against then-Prime Minister Imran Khan. The dynamics described in the cable seem to align with subsequent events, indicating that the Pakistan-US relationship was influenced by these strategies. The cable highlights the US’s reservations regarding Khan’s foreign policy stance during the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Interestingly, Khan’s position on the Ukraine issue was swiftly reversed following his removal from office.

This diplomatic interaction between US officials and the Pakistani government occurred in the midst of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, just as Khan was preparing to travel to Moscow. Khan’s visit to Russia reportedly drew displeasure from the US.

In the days leading up to the meeting, on March 2, 2022, Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu faced questioning during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about Pakistan’s neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict. Lu’s response suggested a desire to engage with Prime Minister Khan following his visit to Moscow.

A day before the meeting, Imran Khan, in a rally, questioned the perception of Pakistan’s role in international relations, asserting that the country was not beholden to any alliance.

The document indicates that Lu expressed dissatisfaction during the meeting over Pakistan’s position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This meeting and its subsequent fallout have significantly shaped the discourse surrounding Pakistan’s internal dynamics and its relationship with the United States.

Donald Lu, as per the intercepted document, expressed concern over Pakistan’s perceived stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, stating that people in the US and Europe found Pakistan’s declared neutrality concerning. He commented that the position did not appear as neutral as it was being presented. Lu indicated that discussions within the US National Security Council indicated that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s policy was apparent in this matter.

Regarding the looming no-confidence vote, Lu conveyed his views that if Khan were removed due to the vote’s success, Washington would likely forgive the situation. He alluded to the Russia visit being attributed to Khan’s decision and anticipated challenges ahead.

Lu cautioned that Pakistan could face isolation from Western allies if the situation was not resolved, with Europe possibly reacting similarly. He suggested that Khan might face “isolation” from Europe and the US if he remained in power.

In response to Lu’s reported remarks, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller emphasized that the comments didn’t indicate a US stance on Pakistan’s leadership and noted that he wouldn’t react to private diplomatic discussions.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani ambassador expressed frustration at the perceived lack of engagement from US leadership, stating that Pakistan felt ignored or taken for granted despite providing support on crucial US matters.

The discussion concluded with the Pakistani ambassador expressing hope that the Russia-Ukraine conflict wouldn’t substantially impact bilateral ties. Lu acknowledged damage to the relationship but suggested that with Khan gone, ties could normalize. He believed the damage had already impacted the relationship and indicated that its resolution depended on how the political situation evolved.

On March 8, 2022, the day after the meeting, Khan’s opponents in Pakistan’s Parliament initiated procedural steps towards the no-confidence vote. The US State Department consistently denied Lu’s urging for Khan’s removal, with spokespersons stating there was no truth to the allegations.

In April 2022, US State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter reiterated the denial in response to Khan’s allegations. A month after the meeting’s description in the cable and shortly before Khan’s removal from power, Pakistan’s then-army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, criticized Moscow, denouncing the Russia-Ukraine conflict as a “huge tragedy.”

Qamar Javed Bajwa’s comments aligned with the reported observation made by Lu in the cable, reinforcing the notion that Pakistan’s declared neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict was a policy attributed to Khan rather than a stance driven by the military.

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