Cable confusion

Published April 7, 2022

THE loyalties of nearly 200 elected public representatives have been rendered suspect by a mysterious diplomatic cable from Washington yet we do not know exactly what its contents are. Meanwhile, the government has used the said cable to throw out the motion of no-confidence brought against the prime minister, dissolve the National Assembly and call fresh elections, not to mention built a potent new election strategy around it.

On the other hand, after spending last week heaping scorn on the ‘foreign conspiracy’ narrative, the opposition parties seem to now be struggling to come to terms with it. They have turned to the security establishment to validate their loyalty to the country, urging them to step into the fray and make public where they stand. The situation is rapidly spiralling out of hand and any continuing confusion over the cable’s actual contents could do grave harm to national unity.

Editorial: How to solve the current political crisis

Regardless of whether the cable in question is ‘genuine’ or ‘doctored’, it does seem as if Mr Imran Khan may have taken the liberty to embellish the contents of it for political purposes, taking advantage of the fact that it is a secret document that cannot legally be shared publicly. When Mr Khan first spoke about it, he had described it as a “letter” containing “credible evidence” of an international conspiracy to topple his government. The claim was that foreign funding was being used to turn lawmakers’ loyalties. It was also claimed at the same time that the government had known for months that foreign conspirators were getting the opposition parties together, abetted by local ‘handlers’.

It later emerged that these ‘revelations’ were in fact claims based on a routine diplomatic cable that had referenced remarks made by a US state representative on the possible outcomes of a vote of no-confidence against Mr Khan and what they could mean for Pakistan. We do know that the language and tone of the communication were such that the National Security Committee termed it “blatant interference” in Pakistan’s internal affairs and recommended sending a strong message through diplomatic channels.

Apart from that, it did not seem there was any imminent threat to Pakistan’s national security. However, going by the self-righteous fury evident in Mr Khan’s recent speeches, one would think it is no longer contestable whether a foreign conspiracy is actually in play or if he has just made a mountain out of a foreign diplomat’s poorly chosen words.

Read: Why Imran's self-serving pseudo sense of national pride is an injustice to Pakistan

With another global power now involved in the fracas, the matter needs to be settled firmly. It is time that the individuals responsible for ensuring Pakistan’s external security provide a fair and comprehensive assessment of whether our national security or sovereignty is really at risk. This assessment should include the severity and likelihood of any perceived ‘threats’ or ‘pressures’ we face, if any. The record must be set straight in the national interest.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2022

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