By Amjad Ali
Islamabad, Aug 11 (EFE).- A leaked conversation between US and Pakistani diplomats over Islamabad’s neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict has strained ties between the two countries and deepened political turmoil in Pakistan.
The alleged conversation between two American diplomats and the then-Pakistani ambassador to the US, recorded in a diplomatic cable, internally called a cipher, dates back to March 7, 2022.
An American news portal, The Intercept, published the text of the leaked cable, alleging that US officials pressured Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan to remove Imran Khan as prime minister for visiting Moscow on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year.
Imran Khan was eventually ousted after a parliamentary no-confidence vote on April 10, 2022, leading to a change in government with Shehbaz Sharif at the helm.
The US has refused to comment on the authenticity of the leaked document but admitted that it objected publicly and privately to Khan’s visit to Russia.
Washington also denied orchestrating the parliamentary vote or intervening in Khan’s removal – an allegation often repeated by the former prime minister in public speeches.
“We will not discuss the validity of this document,” a US State Department spokesperson told EFE in a written response on Friday.
“Nothing in these purported comments shows the US taking a position on who the leader of Pakistan should be,” the spokesperson said.
“Pakistani politics (is) a matter for the Pakistani people to decide, according to their constitution and laws.”
On the other hand, the Pakistan Foreign Office also refused to comment on the purported cable.
“The foreign office does not comment on alleged leaks,” spokesperson Mumtaz Baloch told EFE.
The alleged cable leak indicates that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu cautioned the Pakistani ambassador that his country might face “isolation” from Europe and the US if Khan continued in office.
Currently detained on corruption charges, Khan has repeatedly alleged that the then army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, conspired with the then-opposition leader, Sharif, and the US to bring down his government.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said the leaked cable vindicated Khan.
“We reiterate our demand that a high-powered judicial commission be constituted to investigate the issue comprehensively and make its findings public,” the PTI said.
Amid several criminal allegations against Khan and widespread desertion by his supporters and leaders, he remains one of Pakistan’s most popular politicians.
The State Department spokesperson said the US government was “following the cases brought against Khan.”
The spokesperson said they had no comments on the current charges against him.
“We continue to call for the respect of democratic principles, human rights, and the rule of law in Pakistan, as we do around the world.” EFE