US defends Donald Lu against PTI ‘misinformation’

Published July 19, 2023
A file photo of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Horst. — Photo via State Department website
A file photo of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Horst. — Photo via State Department website

WASHINGTON: Nearly 15 months after his remarks — as reported in a diplomatic cipher sent to Islamabad — caused uproar in Pakistan, a senior US official has publicly defended Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu.

In a rare display of candour on Tuesday, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Horst named Mr Lu, saying the allegations against him were “categorically false”.

“We have communicated this publicly and privately,” she said, while referring to numerous statements from US officials in which they proclaimed neutrality in Pakistan’s charged political environment.

Mr Lu was blamed by former prime minister Imran Khan for orc­h­estrating the no-confidence vote that led to his ouster in April, last year.

While the US has refuted the allegations levelled by Mr Khan in the past, they have never named the high-ranking State Department official.

The candid remarks came at a conference on the future of Pakistan-US Relations in Houston. Ms Horst, who heads the Pakistan bureau at the US State Department, also said Washington “does not have a position on one political candidate or party versus another”.

She said her address was an “opportunity to address disinformation” about the US role in Pakistani politics.

“We do not let propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation get in the way of any bilateral relationship, including our valued partnership with Pakistan,” she added. “We are prepared to work with any government chosen by the Pakistani people.”

She added the US government supports “democratic principles, freedom of expression, and rule of law equally and around the world.”

According to Ms Horst, “we are writing a new chapter in our history, and the focus is on people, investment, economy, climate, and prosperity.”

Referring to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s message during the 75th diplomatic anniversary of US-Pakistan relations last year, she said: “We will continue to stand by Pakistan [and] its people, today and in the days to come, because that’s what we’ve done for each other in both directions through much of our shared history.”

Pakistan’s US ambassador Masood Khan, who also addressed the event organised by the International Academy of Letters, thanked the US “for supporting the approval of the $3bn stand-by arrangement (SBA) between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2023

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