“No truth in PTI’s allegations of conspiracy or contact”; US again clarifies

WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Sunday reiterated its stance that there’s no truth to the claims that Washington was involved in a conspiracy to bring down the PTI government.

The controversy resurfaced on Sunday with media reports that PTI’s secretary overseas Abdullah Riar “has contacted US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and asked him to forget the past and move forward”.

In March, former prime minister Imran Khan, while he was still in office, claimed that the opposition’s no-confidence motion against him was the result of a “foreign conspiracy” because of his external policy and funds were channeled from abroad to oust him.

Later, PTI leaders told journalists that they based their claim on a cable that former Pakistani ambassador in Washington sent to Islamabad on March 7, detailing the conspiracy. The cable included details of Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan’s meeting with Mr Lu at the Pakistan Embassy.

ISLAMABAD: US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome discussing issues of mutual interest with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at the Prime Minister House.

Dawn learned from diplomatic sources that the conversation mentioned in the cable happened at a farewell lunch by the outgoing ambassador and that the cable did not say anything about a conspiracy. Mr Lu, however, did convey the Biden administration’s ‘unhappiness’ over former PM’s visit to Moscow on the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

Mr Lu also said that this ‘unhappiness’ would continue as long as Imran Khan was in power. During the long conversation, Mr Lu also asked questions about the no-confidence movement against the PTI government as this was all over the media.

When Dawn contacted the US State Department for comments on Mr Riar’s reported contact with Mr Lu, a spokesperson said: “As a standard practice, we do not comment on private diplomatic meetings.”

On Imran Khan’s claim on the US involvement in toppling him, the spokesperson said: “As we have said before, there is no truth to these allegations.”

PTI sources in the US also refused to discuss the reported contact, while Mr Riar did not return calls or respond to messages.

Message of Shehbaz Sharif

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has congratulated the US government and its people on their Independence Day on July 4 while expressing his government’s desire to promote bilateral relations at all levels with the Biden administration.

ISLAMABAD: US ambassador Donald Blome presents his credentials to Pakistan President Arif Alvi at the President House.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted on Monday saying: “It is my pleasure to extend heartiest felicitations & greetings to the people & government of the United States on their Independence Day. My govt looks forward to engaging with the Biden Administration at all levels to promote our bilateral relations including trade & investment.”

After the installation of the Shehbaz government in April this year, the US started resetting its ties with Pakistan which had hit its nadir during the last days of former prime minister Imran Khan’s government who time and again accused the US of orchestrating regime change in Pakistan.

Soon after the PML-N coalition government took reins, the United States pointed out that it had had a ‘vital relationship’ with Pakistan for almost 75 years. In its briefing, the US State Department expressed the desire to ‘work closely’ with the new government to further strengthen these ties.

During his press briefing in April, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price talked about the US-Pakistan relationship saying that “for almost 75 years our relationship with Pakistan has been a vital one” and the US wants to retain this strong partnership.

“We look forward to continuing that work with the new government in Pakistan across regional and international issues,” he said adding “This is work that has the potential to promote peace and prosperity in Pakistan and throughout the region.”

Khawaja Asif

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif

Federal Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif Sunday claimed that the PTI had sought apology to the US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu and the federal government had acquired all the record in this regard.

In a statement issued here, Asif said that the government had got entire record of a meeting of the PTI leader and apology submitted to the US government.

“The one who used to raise anti-America slogans is now seeking forgiveness. Imran Khan has sent a message that he has committed a blunder and the contacts must resume from where disconnected,” says the statement.

He said Imran Khan had sent a message through the US envoy that he wanted to repair the relationship with the US.

“Imran has been exposed and he is now seeking forgiveness from Donald Lu,” he claimed.

Fawad Choudhary’s denial

PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry lashed out at Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday for claiming the party had approached US official Donald Lu — whom ex-premier Imran Khan accuses of playing a part in his ouster — for forgiveness.

ISLAMABAD: PTI leaders Fawad Chaudhry and Shireen Mazari address a press conference on Monday. 

In an appearance on Geo News programme Naya Pakistan a day earlier, Asif claimed the government had obtained evidence that the PTI sought to apologise to Lu, who is the US assistant secretary of state for central and south Asia.

He doubled down on that claim in a tweet, saying that the former ruling party was imploring the US to “forgive and forget and let bygones be bygones”.

“If their pleas are accepted, then they will chant ‘long live the US’. If not then, they will go back to hurling abuses,” the defence minister said. “The formula for [dealing with] institutions inside and outside the country is the same,” he added.

Responding to Asif’s claim at a press conference in Islamabad, Chaudhry asked Asif whether he had gone deaf when Imran was giving his “policy statement in front of a gathering of tens of thousands of people”, referring to the PTI’s rally at Parade Ground on Saturday.

“Did you have cotton in your ears that you could not understand what Imran was saying?”

He said that the PTI wanted good relations with all countries but would not allow any country to decide “who would rule Pakistan”. “We cannot give this permission. We maintain relations on the basis of equality,” he said.