ISLAMABAD: The PTI has clai­m­­ed that US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu has admitted the cipher’s existence, and his testimony has vindicated the stance of Imran Khan.

In a press conference on Thurs­day, PTI leaders said the testimony before the US Congress’ Foreign Affairs Committee established the “veracity and reality” of the diplomatic cable.

PTI Central Informa­tion Secretary Raoof Hasan said that Mr Lu “accepted the existence” of the cipher and only disagreed with its contents. He claimed that the US official “lied” before the Congressional committee about the then Pakistan envoy to the US, Asad Majeed, testimony that there was no conspiracy.

The former ambassador’s admission before two National Security Committee (NSC) meetings — one chaired by Imran Khan and another by Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister — led to a demarche to the US for its grave interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, claimed Mr Hasan.

Even the second NSC meeting endorsed the minutes of the first meeting and termed the diplomatic cable “a grave interference in Pakistan’s affairs”.

Party leaders want Gen Bajwa, ex-envoy Asad Majeed summoned to ‘open trial’

The cipher was “no more a secret or a classified document” since its contents have been published by a US news organisation ‘The Intercept’.

The scoop, published in August 2023, claimed that the US administration was upset over Mr Khan’s visit to Russia in 2022 and warned Pakistan of severe consequences, signalling that things would be better if he was removed, said Mr Hasan.

The PTI founder didn’t lie about anything and was “unjustly being prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act” for making the cipher public, added Mr Hasan.

Imran Khan “even demanded formation of an independent judicial commission” to probe the matter, said Mr Hasan.

‘Summon ex-COAS and envoy’

Speaking on the occasion, former Gilgit-Baltistan CM Khalid Khurshid claimed Mr Khan “took a firm stand” against the US’s interference and did not surrender like former president Pervez Musharraf.

He demanded open trial of the cipher case and that former COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa and the ex-ambassador should be summoned and asked how a man could threaten a country of 250 million people of severe consequences if they did not remove their elected prime minister.

The US Congress was holding an open hearing on the cipher, but ironically, it was a crime to talk about the diplomatic cable in Pakistan, said Mr Khan.

PTI leader and Mr Khan’s lawyer, Naeem Haider Panjutha, said his client was “falsely” implicated in the cipher case instead of taking actions against the real culprits.

ECP’s credibility ‘wiped out’

About Mr Lu’s comments on the Feb 8 general elections, Mr Hasan said the US office faced harsh questions about the “mega elections robbery” and “midnight assault on public mandate” where clear winners were converted into losers through manipulation and tampering of results.

Separately, PTI Senator Ejaz Cha­u­dhry said the Election Commission of Pakistan’s credibility has been “wiped out” after Mr Lu’s observations on general elections.

Speaking to the media after his checkup at a private hospital in Lahore on Thursday, Mr Chaudhry said incumbent rulers were “bankrupting the country”.

Another PTI leader, Moonis Elahi, said the US official’s “confession” regarding the “rigging” proved that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif “were illegitimately occupying their offices”.

Mansoor Malik in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2024

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