The United States has asserted that there had never been any truth to former premier Imran Khan’s allegations of Washington orchestrating a regime change conspiracy to oust his government and reiterated its resolve not to let “misinformation” and “propaganda” come in the way of its bilateral ties with Pakistan.
“As we’ve previously said, there has — there is not and there has never been a truth to these allegations, but I don’t have anything additional to offer,” US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said during a press briefing on Wednesday when asked to comment on the PTI’s chief’s apparent “backtracking” on the allegations.
Since his removal from public office through a no-confidence vote in April — the first such ouster of any prime minister in Pakistan’s history — Imran has been blaming the US and the incumbent dispensation in Islamabad of colluding and conspiring to overthrow his government.
But in a recent interview to Financial Times, he said he no longer “blamed” the US administration for his removal from power, and that he wanted a “dignified” relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
“As far as I’m concerned it is over, it’s behind me,” he said about the alleged US role in the purported conspiracy.
His remarks were seen by opponents as him backtracking on his allegations but the PTI leadership, including Imran, maintained that his statements were misconstrued and taken out of context.
When Vedant’s comments were sought on the matter on Wednesday, he began by saying: “The US values our longstanding cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical to US interests.
“That remains unchanged.”
He also clarified that the US did not have “a position on one political candidate of a party versus another.
“We support peaceful upholding of democratic, constitutional, and legal principles. And ultimately, we will not let propaganda, misinformation and disinformation get in the way of any bilateral relationship, including our valued bilateral partner with Pakistan.”
Asked to elaborate further, Vendant said, “As we’ve previously said, there has — there is not and there has never been a truth to these allegations, but I don’t have anything additional to offer.”
It was then pointed out to him that in the Financial Times interview, Imran had also termed his visit to Russia on the eve of Moscow’s launch of an offensive on Ukraine “embarrassing”.
The timing of the visit last year was questioned but the then-PTI government had defended the visit, describing it as a move in line with policy shift to geoeconomics.
And Imran also explained to Financial Times that the visit was organised months in advance.
To this end, Vedant said, “I really don’t have anything else to offer on foreign minister — or former prime minister Khan’s comments on that.”
On “rumours” about the PTI leadership meeting the US ambassador in Islamabad, Vendant said, “I don’t have any specific meetings or calls to read out.”
Imran denies backtracking on regime change conspiracy
For his part, Imran — in an interview with France 24 late on Wednesday — said that he never backtracked on his claims regarding a foreign conspiracy leading to his ouster in April.
Imran said that according to the cipher, the document on which the PTI has based the US-backed regime change narrative, US official Donald Lu told the Pakistani ambassador in Washington that there would be consequences for the South Asian nation unless he was ousted through the no-confidence vote.
“The next day the vote of no-confidence is tabled and […] the government is toppled. Now, what I actually said was that that is behind me. Just because my government was toppled by the US, I should not let that get in the way of what is in the interest of the people of Pakistan.”
He said having good relations with the US was in Pakistan’s interest.
“So, that’s exactly what I said. I never backtracked on this. The cipher exists. It was put in front of the cabinet. It was put in front of the National Security [Committee]. It is now with the chief justice where we wanted him to hold an independent inquiry.
“So there was no question of backtracking on that.”