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‘Complete falsehood’: Donald Lu rubbishes Imran Khan’s cipher ‘conspiracy theory’

Courtesy: Geo News
Video: YouTube/Geo News

  • Cipher does not accuse US of taking steps against Imran Khan: Lu.
  • “We respect  sovereignty of Pakistan,” says US assistant secretary. 
  • Pakistan facing mounting debt challenge, needs reforms, he says. 

Donald Lu, the US Assistant Secretary of State, has yet again rejected former prime minister Imran Khan’s allegations that US engineered his ouster from power by supporting the then opposition’s no-confidence motion in April 2022.

Testifying before a Congressional panel on Wednesday, the top US diplomat said: “I wanna be very clear on this point [that] this conspiracy theory is a lie [and ] it is a complete falsehood.”

The hearing titled ‘Pakistan After the elections: Examining the future of Democracy in Pakistan and the US Pakistan relationship,’ was announced by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee where the assistant secretary was the key witness.

When asked about the allegations of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder, the US assistant secretary said he viewed the media reports regarding the alleged leaked cipher that Khan claimed contained the threat issued by Lu in a meeting with then-Pakistan’s ambassador Asad Majeed in Washington in 2022 days before the ouster of the PTI-led government.

“At no point does it accuse the United States government or me personally of taking steps against Imran Khan,” he added.

Moreover, the US diplomat said then Pakistan’s envoy to Washington Asad Majeed also testified to his government that there was no conspiracy.

“We respect the sovereignty of Pakistan, we respect the principle that Pakistani people should be the only ones to choose their leader through democratic process,” he remarked.

The cipher controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Khan — less than a month before his ouster in April 2022 — while addressing a public rally waved a letter before the crowd, claiming that it was a cipher from a foreign nation that had conspired with his political rivals to have PTI government overthrown.

He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor did he mention the name of the nation it came from. But a few days later, he accused the United States of conspiring against him and alleged that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal.

The cipher was sent by then Pakistan’s ambassador to US Asad Majeed.

US demands probe into rigging allegations

Speaking about the February 8 general election, the assistant secretary called for an investigation into the electoral fraud claims, saying that the US is closely monitoring the probe into the rigging allegations.

He also mentioned “undue restrictions on freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly” during the February 8 polls.

“We condemn the electoral violence and restrictions on human and fundamental rights and restriction on internet services,” the US diplomat added.

Lu said the US wanted the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold those accountable involved in the election rigging, saying they would encourage the Pakistani government and the poll authority to make the process transparent.

He said more than 5,000 independent election observers were in the field to monitor the elections in Pakistan and their “organisations’ conclusion was that the conduct of the election was largely competitive and orderly while noting some irregularities in the completion of the results”.

Terming Pakistan an important partner of the US, the assistant secretary said Washington shared commitment to strengthening Pakistan’s democratic institution, supporting the US-Pakistan Green Alliance framework, and cooperating to counter threats from groups like al Qaeda and Daesh.

‘Pakistan facing mounting debt challenge’

Commenting on the country’s economic situation, the top diplomat told the Congress committee that Pakistan is facing a mounting debt challenge and this year nearly 70% of the federal government’s revenue is expected to go to payment to service this massive debt.

“Pakistan needs economic reforms and private sector-led investment to deliver economic growth for the people and not dig their government deeper into debt,” he added.

“Pakistani people deserve a country that’s peaceful, democratic and prosperous [and] we are working very day to support that vision.”

On bilateral ties between the two countries, Lu said the US is at “inflection point” in its relationship with Pakistan.

He explained that Afghanistan has been in conflict for 40 years and Pakistan caught up in that conflict too.

“The end of the war in Afghanistan provides us an opportunity to have a relationship with Pakistan on its term,” the assistant secretary said.

1- Header image: Donald lu, the US Assistant Secretary of State, testifying before Congressional panel on March 20, 2024. — Screengrab/YouTube/Foreign Affairs Committee

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