The Foreign Office on Tuesday termed as “entirely baseless” claims by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s Chief of Staff Shahbaz Gill that the a cypher containing alleged threats to Pakistan was purposely hidden from the then-foreign minister and prime minister.
“Such a question simply does not arise,” read a statement issued in response to media queries. “The Foreign Office operates on professional basis and it would be detrimental to cast aspersions on its working,” it added.
Earlier in the day, Gill had reiterated claims that the diplomatic cypher sent by then-ambassador to the U.S. Asad Majeed Khan had been hidden from ousted prime minister Imran Khan and his foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Addressing media in Islamabad, Gill had alleged that the cypher had been hidden, adding that he had been told this by Qureshi.
According to Gill, Qureshi told him that the cypher was only provided to the premier and himself after he asked the foreign secretary about it. Upon receiving the cypher, he said, Qureshi had delivered it to Khan. Gill claimed that Qureshi had only learnt of a cypher being delivered but had not been provided it until he questioned whether it had been issued.
This isn’t the first time a PTI leader has alleged that the cypher was hidden from then-prime minister Khan. Since the ousted premier first unveiled it to the public at a rally on March 27—while alleging it was “proof” of the U.S. colluding with opposition lawmakers to impose a regime change—both Gill and Qureshi have alleged in various media interviews that the cypher was “hidden” from the prime minister. They have yet to offer any evidence of these claims.
While the PTI refuses to budge from its claims that a U.S.-backed “foreign conspiracy” was behind its ouster, two separate meetings of the National Security Committee have stressed that there was no evidence of any kind of conspiracy. However, they have noted, the language cited in the cypher is “blatant interference” in Pakistan’s affairs and have supported the issuance of a demarche to protest it.