ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee (NSC) on Thursday expressed “grave concern” over US meddling in Pakistan’s internal affairs and decided to lodge a strong protest.
The meeting was convened to discuss Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claim that a foreign country, which he later in an apparent slip of tongue in his televised speech identified as the US, had sent a threatening message through Pakistan’s envoy.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu had reportedly in a meeting with Ambassador Asad Majeed warned that there could be implications if Prime Minister Khan survived the opposition’s no-confidence motion in the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office spokesman in a brief statement issued late in the night said that as per the NSC decision, the “demarches have been made through diplomatic channels”.
The NSC, which is the top civil-military forum, after deliberating on the contents of the US message conveyed by Pakistan’s ambassador through a cable on March 7, expressed “grave concern” over it.
The statement by the Prime Minister Office on the meeting did not name any country, but after Mr Khan’s gaffe it became obvious that the unnamed state was none other than US.
The NSC members described the language used by the “foreign official” as “undiplomatic”.
According to the statement, the committee viewed the message as “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan” and underscored that such action was “unacceptable under any circumstances”.
There was no direct mention of the opposition’s no-confidence motion in the statement, but a minister, asking not to be named, insisted that the committee’s reference to internal matters was about the proceedings against the prime minister initiated by the opposition. He contended that the NSC’s statement was a clear endorsement of Mr Khan’s position on the cable saga.
The prime minister’s critics, however, saw the statement in a different way and claimed that the committee did not agree with Mr Khan that the message was threatening and a proof of foreign conspiracy.
The NSC decided that a “strong demarche” would be delivered to “the country in question”. The protest note will be handed over to US Charge d’ Affaires in Islamabad and State Department in Washington.
The statement noted that the course of action decided by the NSC was in keeping with diplomatic norms.
“Participants also endorsed the Cabinet’s decision [reached] in the Special Cabinet meeting held on 30th March, 2022 under the Prime Minister’s chairmanship to take the parliament into confidence through an in-camera briefing of the National Security Committee of the Parliament,” it added.
The opposition boycotted the meeting of the parliamentary committee on the pretext that its leaders had not been timely intimated about it.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the opposition had not received any notification for the national security committee meeting.
“This meeting should not have been called. Imran’s attempt to polarise and scandalise the national security forums and institutions is outrageous,” he said.
“Our information is that one of the ministers got this letter written and posted to him. Then that minister showed this letter to Imran Khan. Imran waved this letter in a public gathering and now he is trying to use it in his favour to run away from the constitutional process. Imran is trying to pressurise and make the institutions disputed,” he claimed, adding that Mr Khan’s action not only hurt the foreign policy but also the national interest.
“This is not a game, this is not cricket. We have to think about the country and such childish acts must end,” he said.
Former president Asif Zardari, while responding to a question by a journalist at the Parliament House, said there was no need to see the so-called document as it was fake.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2022