Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Monday said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Donald Lu should be sacked for his “sheer arrogance and bad manners” in “threatening” Pakistan.
Responding to questions during an interview with CNN, he reiterated his claims that the U.S. diplomat had told Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. that “Pakistan will suffer consequences” if the former prime minister were not ousted through a vote of no-confidence. “And then [he] goes on to say … if you get rid of him [Khan] through the vote of no-confidence, all will be forgiven—such arrogance … this guy should be sacked for bad manners and sheer arrogance,” he added.
The PTI chairman said he had presented the diplomatic cable to the federal cabinet and the National Security Council, which had described it as “blatant interference in Pakistan’s affairs.” To a question on whether he had sought an explanation from the U.S. leadership, including President Joe Biden, the ousted prime minister said the NSC had decided it would be preferable to issue a demarche and protest Lu’s language with U.S. envoys in Pakistan. President Arif Alvi, too, he said, had asked Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial to hold an inquiry into the matter.
Lu has been a recurring target for Khan in his bid to allege a U.S.-backed regime change in Pakistan. He has repeatedly alleged that the U.S. diplomat “threatened” Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S., Asad Majeed, that if Khan were not ousted, there would be “consequences” for Pakistan.
Good ties with Trump
To a question on whether Khan believed a good bilateral relationship with the U.S. was in Pakistan’s interest, the PTI chairman said that he had a “perfectly good relationship with the Trump administration.” However, he said, Biden’s election as president, coupled with the situation in Afghanistan had changed things. “For some reason—which I still don’t know—they never got in touch with me,” he said.
When the interviewer asked Khan if he truly believed the U.S. had instigated regime change despite multiple denials from Washington, the former prime minister reiterated his suspicions of the U.S. embassy meeting disgruntled members of the PTI over the past year. “What were they meeting for? They were the first ones to jump ship and they were the ones who then offered million dollars each to buy my other MNAs who jumped ship later on,” he claimed. “Why would the U.S. embassy be interested in our party backbenchers?” he said.
On Khan’s visit to Moscow on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, of which the interviewer noted “the optics didn’t and don’t look good,” Khan admitted it sent a problematic image. “This visit was planned a long time back and all stakeholders in Pakistan were onboard. The military wanted Russian hardware, we wanted oil, there was a gas pipeline which was being negotiated for the past six years before my government came in … how would I have known that the day I land in Moscow, President [Vladimir] Putin would decide to go into Ukraine?” he said.
To a follow-up question on whether he regretted the trip, Khan said he would only have regretted it if he had known about the invasion beforehand and still chosen to go ahead. “I do not believe in military solutions. I have opposed all military ways of achieving political ends but I wasn’t supposed to know [that Russia would invade],” he added.
The interview concluded with a question on whether Khan planned to run for prime minister again. The PTI chairman predicted the PTI would become the “biggest party in Pakistan’s history because people are so incensed and feel insulted that these criminals have been foisted over us … there is anger in Pakistan … there is anti-Americanism.”