Pakistan summons US envoy over ‘meddling’
Islamabad has summoned its acting US envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu, to officially condemn his language regarding the upcoming no-confidence vote against PM Imran Khan, a Pakistan foreign ministry official confirmed on Friday.
Lu allegedly told the Pakistani ambassador to the US that “relations with Pakistan cannot improve” as long as Khan was in power. If the former cricket star was ousted in the no-confidence vote, however, the country would be “forgiven for its mistakes,” local media reported.
Khan’s government opted to issue a “strong demarche” to the US in return for his threatening remarks after the PM consulted with his national security committee on Thursday over the matter, which they denounced as “blatant interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs” by a foreign country.
While the initial statement from the committee did not publicly reveal that the “foreign country” in question was the US, Khan let slip during a televised address that night that the “foreign country [he couldn’t] name” was, in fact, “America.” He claimed to have received a briefing letter from the Pakistani ambassador to the US that included a recording of a senior official from Washington suggesting the relationship between the US and Pakistan would improve should Khan be toppled in the no-confidence vote.
“They say that ‘our anger will vanish if Imran Khan loses this no-confidence vote’,” Khan declared in his speech after appearing to reveal that “they” were Washington.
While the opening debates on the no-confidence vote had been scheduled for Thursday, the deputy speaker of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party had the proceedings suspended on a technicality, meaning the next attempt to begin the process will likely take place during parliament’s next meeting on Sunday.
However, PTI remains outnumbered, with several members having defected to the two major rival parties on the matter of the no-confidence vote.
Khan also claimed in a rally last week that a “foreign-backed conspiracy” was behind the move to oust him, noting that it was being financially backed by millions of dollars in foreign money and “our people are being used.” The PM suggested it was his refusal to join the US and NATO in condemning Russia’s military operation in Ukraine that had triggered the conspiracy.
Adding credibility to his claim, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry revealed on Friday that the country’s security agencies had reported a plot to assassinate Khan, the second such claim this week. PTI leader Faisal Vawda had earlier claimed Khan’s refusal to “sell the country” was behind the bid to have him killed.
The no-confidence vote stems from a combination of longstanding economic issues and the recent spike in fuel prices triggered by the conflict in Ukraine. There is uncertainty over whether the International Monetary Fund will release the next installment of a $6 billion rescue package agreed upon in 2019, as the IMF has balked at a subsidy package Khan introduced to cushion the impact of surging oil and gas prices. However, Khan insists the subsidies are already paid for with existing funds.