Pakistan’s foreign office has summoned the acting US charge d’affaires to lodge a strong protest over Washington’s meddling in the internal affairs of the country.
Pakistani media, citing diplomatic sources, said on Thursday that the senior US diplomat was handed over the protest note for the language used by an American official during a formal communication regarding a no-confidence motion in Pakistan’s parliament aimed at ousting Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The English-language Dawn newspaper said the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu, had in a meeting with Pakistan’s envoy Asad Majeed warned that there could be implications if Khan survived the opposition’s no-confidence motion on April 3.
A Pakistani foreign office official confirmed that a “demarche” was handed over to the acting US envoy in Islamabad, adding that Washington was told that the use of such undiplomatic language was unacceptable.
A senior Pakistani journalist, Nasim Zehra, in a Twitter post on Thursday also confirmed that the US Department of State official, referring to Donald Lu, had told the Pakistani ambassador that as long as PM Khan was in power, “relations with Pakistan cannot improve”.
In a threatening tone, he further said that if Khan was removed from the office, Pakistan “will be forgiven for its mistakes”, which Zahra described as “outrageous official communication”.
US under Secretary of State did call outgoing Amb DrAsad to deliver a demarche for Pak govt: he told amb as long as PM @ImranKhanPTI is PM relations with Pakistan can’t improve & if he goes Pak canbe forgiven for its mistakes. Outrageous official communication! All must condemn.
— Nasim Zehra (@NasimZehra) March 31, 2022
Prime Minister Khan, who has turned down opposition calls to resign, in a televised address on Thursday claimed that a foreign country was cheering a no-confidence vote because of his recent visit to Russia.
Khan even named the United States as the origin of a “message” that he said proved a foreign country was meddling in his country’s internal affairs.
He called the opposition’s move to oust him a “foreign conspiracy”, linking it to his last month’s visit to Moscow, which came hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a military operation in Ukraine.
The timing of Khan’s visit to Moscow and his refusal to join the United Nations vote to condemn Russia’s operation in Ukraine drew widespread condemnation from Western countries.
Last week, addressing a rally attended by thousands of his supporters, Khan claimed that a “foreign-backed conspiracy” was behind the no-trust motion against him in the country’s parliament.
He said the funding “being channeled into Pakistan from abroad” was the reason behind efforts to dislodge his government.
“Attempts are being made through foreign money to change the government in Pakistan. Our people are being used. Mostly inadvertently, but some people are using money against us,” he claimed.
Before his televised speech on Thursday, Khan chaired a national security committee (NSC) meeting to discuss what was described as “the formal communication of a senior official of a foreign country to Pakistan’s ambassador in the said country in a formal meeting.”
An official statement after the NSC meeting said the gathering expressed grave concern at the communication.
The committee concluded the communication amounted to “blatant interference” in Pakistan’s internal affairs, the statement said, adding that Islamabad had decided to issue a strong demarche to the country.
The no-confidence motion against Khan was tabled in the National Assembly on Monday. The opposition needs a simple majority of 50 percent plus one to topple the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government.
Khan needs 172 votes in the 342-seat house to foil the bid. Some defections in the PTI and cracks in his coalition partners have dented his chances to accumulate the 172 votes, needed to hold on to power.
The cricketer-turned-politician has been accused by the opposition of mishandling the economy and foreign policy since coming to office in 2018.
His embattled government has been banking on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release a $6 billion rescue package, but the move has been obstructed by the US.