FO rejects Gill’s claims that ex-PM Imran was kept in dark about cipher

Published July 20, 2022
<p>PTI’s Shahbaz Gill speaking outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday. —ARY news screengrab</p>

PTI’s Shahbaz Gill speaking outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday. —ARY news screengrab

The Foreign Office on Tuesday rejected PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s claims that the cipher — at the centre of PTI’s foreign conspiracy claims — received from the Pakistani embassy in Washington was initially hidden from then-prime minister Imran Khan and then-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

In a short statement issued on Tuesday night, the FO spokesperson termed “entirely baseless the claim that the Cipher Communication received from the Embassy in Washington was ‘hidden’ from the Foreign Minister or Prime Minister”.

“Such a question simply does not arise. The Foreign Office operates on professional basis and it would be detrimental to cast aspersions on its working,” it said.

Gill’s claim

The claim was made by Gill outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon. Speaking at a press conference, Gill said that the cable was before the court, before the honourable chief justice of Pakistan, so he could form a commission to investigate it.

“For this, we are standing before the court for justice. In this [case] we have not received justice,” he added.

He said: “The cipher sent by the Pakistani ambassador [contained details] of the message given to him in America.

“I’m once again saying this on record before the Supreme Court of Pakistan that the cipher was hidden from the prime minister and foreign minister of Pakistan.

“That cipher was with senior officials of the country, but it was hidden from the then prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan and then foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. I’m saying this on record.”

He went on to describe that when “Shah sahab found out that such a cable had arrived from the embassy in Washington, he summoned the foreign secretary and asked him ‘has such a cable come?’

“Then he (foreign secretary) hesitantly said ‘yes, it has’. Then Shah sahab asked him, ‘why wasn’t it shared with me?’.”

The cable was then shared, Gill alleged, following which Qureshi brought it before Imran. “Let me set the record straight. I stand before the Supreme Court and request that the entire Pakistani nation be given justice on this matter.”

Cablegate

The controversy surrounding the no-confidence motion against the former premier Imran Khan took a dramatic turn when the embattled PM brandished a letter at a rally on March 27 — days before his ouster — claiming it contained evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” hatched to topple his government.

Imran had kept mum about the contents of the letter when he first unveiled it but he spilled the beans days later by naming the United States when the exit of his government appeared imminent.

Imran’s allegation that the US spearheaded his exit from power was based on a cipher received from Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed, in which the envoy had reported about a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu.

Majeed had reportedly said that Donald Lu warned that Imran Khan’s continuation in office, who was set to face a vote of no confidence, would have repercussions on bilateral relations.

The US was said to be annoyed with Imran over his “independent foreign policy” and visit to Moscow.

The Pentagon and the State Department have repeatedly rejected the accusations, saying there was no veracity to it.

The National Security Committee (NSC), which includes all services chiefs as well as the head of Pakistan’s top intelligence agency, took up the matter on March 31 with then premier Imran Khan in the chair. The forum decided to issue a “strong demarche” to a country that it did not name over what it termed as “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan”.

It had also termed the interference “unacceptable under any circumstances” and said the language used in the communique was undiplomatic.

While the forum had stopped short of calling the interference a conspiracy at the time, another meeting of the NSC was held on April 22 with newly elected premier Shehbaz Sharif in the chair, and which included the same military chiefs who attended the March 31 session.

During its second meeting, the NSC statement said it “reaffirmed the decisions of the last NSC meeting” and explicitly went on to add that it found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy.

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