A US publication has obtained a classified document, suggesting Washington pushed for the removal of former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan from office over his neutrality on the Ukraine war.
According to the document published by The Intercept, US State Department officials used threats and promises to encourage Khan's removal as the prime minister.
The US State Department encouraged the Pakistani government in a March 7, 2022, meeting to remove Khan as prime minister over his independent foreign policy regarding Russia, according to the text of the Pakistani cable, produced from the meeting by the Pakistani ambassador and transmitted to Pakistan.
The classified cable, known internally as a “cypher,” reveals both the carrots and the sticks that the State Department deployed in its push against Khan, promising warmer relations if Khan was removed, and isolation if he was not, The Intercept reported.
“The document, labeled “Secret,” includes an account of the meeting between State Department officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, and Asad Majeed Khan, who at the time was Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, it added.
The State Department expressed strong “encouragement” to those in power in Pakistan to take steps towards removing Khan from his position.
This encouragement was primarily motivated by concerns over Khan's perceived lack of alignment with the US and NATO’s proxy war in Russia and Ukraine.
Khan did not support the proxy war so moves were made to take him out.
The Intercept reported that the document was provided to it by an anonymous source in the Pakistani military who said that they had no ties to Khan or his party.
The publication said US officials threatened Pakistan with isolation if Khan was to remain in power and promised “all will be forgiven,” if he were removed.
It reported that the encouragement came during a meeting between the Pakistani ambassador to the United States and two State Department officials back in March 2022.
One month after the meeting, a no-confidence vote was held in the Pakistani parliament which led to Khan’s removal from power.
“I think if the 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,” Lu told Ambassador Majeed before the vote, according to the document. “Otherwise,” he continued, “I think it will be tough going ahead.”
Days before his ouster on April 9, 2022, Khan accused an unnamed "foreign power" - in a clear reference to the United States - of funding a "conspiracy" to topple his democratically-elected government.
Addressing a large rally in the capital Islamabad, Khan said the "foreign power" sent millions of dollars to opposition parties to launch a no-confidence vote against him in the parliament.
"The move to oust me is (a) blatant interference in domestic politics by the United States," Khan added during his next rally.
The day before the meeting of US and Pakistani diplomats in Washington, DC, Khan addressed a rally and responded directly to European calls that Pakistan rally behind Ukraine. “Are we your slaves?”
Khan thundered to the crowd. “What do you think of us? That we are your slaves and that we will do whatever you ask of us?” he asked. “We are friends of Russia, and we are also friends of the United States. We are friends of China and Europe. We are not part of any alliance.”
According to the document, in the meeting, Lu spoke about Washington’s displeasure with Pakistan’s stance in the Ukraine conflict.
The document quotes Lu saying that “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 added that he had held internal discussions with the US National Security Council and that “it seems quite clear that this is the Prime Minister’s policy.”
Khan was removed from power in the no-confidence vote which is believed to have been organized with the backing of Pakistan’s powerful military.
Since his removal from power about 200 court cases have been lodged against Khan by the military-backed government.
The former prime minister has maintained that the cases against him are politically motivated to keep him out of power. He says the country's powerful military is behind these cases.
Pakistan has been in the midst of a crisis after a district court sentenced Khan to three years in jail and barred him from politics for five years.
Khan was arrested at the weekend and sent to jail.