Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has revealed that the cipher — which former prime minister Imran Khan claims contains details of a foreign conspiracy to oust him from power — was not presented in the National Security Committee meeting held soon after the incumbent government took over, insisting that the then ambassador to the US had instead only briefed the meeting.
Sanaullah made this statement while speaking in Dawn News show “Live with Adil Shahzeb” on Tuesday.
A few days after the PTI government was toppled through a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly, an NSC meeting was held under the new premier, Shehbaz Sharif, which affirmed that there was no foreign conspiracy against Imran.
“The NSC discussed the telegram (cipher) received from the Pakistan embassy in Washington. Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US briefed the committee on the context and content of his telegram,” a statement issued after the NSC had said.
However, the interior minister has clarified that the cipher was not presented or shown in the meeting.
“There was no such cipher presented in the NSC meeting held soon after we took the reins,” Sanaullah said.
Sanaullah said that the then Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan had appeared before committee and “denied [finding] any conspiracy in the cipher”.
The minister said the fuss regarding the cipher was created to harm foreign policy of the country.
The interior minister said that the “master copy” of the cipher must be with the Foreign Office while its copies were sent to the president, chief justice of Pakistan, National Assembly speaker and the Prime Minister’s Office. However, Imran took the PMO with him, he alleged.
Talking about the planned long march of the PTI, Sanaullah said the government was open to negotiations on the issue because that was how “political parties must work”.
He warned that a three-pronged strategy was still in place if Imran attempted to enter Islamabad to “disrupt” the law and order situation in the capital. “It would be unwise of him to proceed with the long march because his arrest would be inevitable in that situation,” Sanaullah added.
Commenting on an observation made by CJP Umar Ata Bandial on Article 62(1)f of the Constitution, the minister said the article must be repealed. The chief justice had on Tuesday remarked that the Article was a “draconian law”.
Imran blames the United States for the ouster of his government with the alleged help of local political parties — mainly the PML-N and the PPP.
The controversy surrounding the no-confidence motion against the former premier had taken 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’s allegation that the US spearheaded his exit from power was based on a cipher received from Asad 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 NSC, which includes all services chiefs as well as the head of Pakistan’s top intelligence agency, had taken up the matter on March 31 with then-premier Imran Khan in the chair. The forum had 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.