Pakistan lodges formal
protest with US over
‘threatening letter’,
demarches handed over

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan late on Thursday night lodged a formal protest with the US over a threatening letter that warned of dire consequences if the opposition’s no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan failed.

Acting US envoy in Islamabad was summoned to the Foreign Ministry over the “threatening” letter, hours after the country’s top decision-making body on national security voiced concerns over the issue during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A Foreign Office official confirmed that a demarche was also handed over to the acting US envoy, adding that the US was told that the use of such undiplomatic language was unacceptable, the official said.

“As decided in the National Security Committee meeting held on 31 March 2022, the requisite demarches have been made through diplomatic channels,” the Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement in the early hours of Friday.

The decision to hand over the demarche to the US was taken during the NSC meeting, which was also attended by federal ministers for defence, energy, information, interior, finance, human rights and planning, besides chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, services chiefs, national security adviser and senior officers.

The NSC meeting was convened against the backdrop of alleged “foreign-funded plot” against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. The presence of the alleged plot was based on a diplomatic cable the Pakistani ambassador in Washington wrote to the Foreign Office earlier this month.

The secret memo contains minutes of the meeting between the Pakistani envoy and a US official. According to the government, the US official conveyed a threatening message, stating that if the vote of no-confidence did not succeed the country would have to face consequences.

Pak Foreign Office

Prime Minister Imran, in a televised address to the nation on Thursday, insisted that a certain foreign power wanted to see his ouster because he was pursuing an independent foreign policy.

A handout issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said that the national security adviser briefed the committee on the formal communication of a senior official of a foreign country to Pakistan’s ambassador in the said country in a formal meeting, which was duly conveyed by the ambassador to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The committee expressed grave concern at the communication, terming the language used by the foreign official undiplomatic. The committee concluded that the communication amounted to blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan by the country in question, which was unacceptable under any circumstances.

The committee decided that Pakistan would issue a strong demarche to the country in question both in Islamabad and in the country’s capital through proper channel in keeping with diplomatic norms.

The participants also endorsed the decision taken in the special cabinet meeting on Wednesday, chaired by Prime Minister Imran, to take parliament into confidence through an in-camera briefing of the National Security Committee of Parliament.

However, the NSC did not say if the letter constituted a conspiracy against the sitting government and did not suggest if the opposition parties were part of the plan. There was no decision either to order an inquiry to look into the controversy.

This, observers believe, may be an effort to downplay the conspiracy element on part of the military leadership, which initially was not willing to take the matter seriously. In the official statement, the NSC was cautious that the protest would be lodged with that foreign country keeping with diplomatic norms.

This indicates that there is unlikely Pakistan takes any harsh steps other than issuing a demarche to the US.