The U.S. State Department on Tuesday reiterated its rejection of ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s allegations of instigating a regime change in Pakistan through a “foreign conspiracy,” describing it as “propaganda” and outright lies.
“We are not going to let propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation—lies—get in the way of any bilateral relationship we have, including with the bilateral relationship we have with Pakistan, one we value,” said spokesperson Ned Price during a regular press briefing while responding to a question on whether Khan’s ongoing tirades could impact the diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and the U.S.
Khan was ousted as prime minister through a vote of no-confidence last month, with Shehbaz Sharif being elected as his replacement by the Lower House of Parliament. Since March 27—when he addressed a rally in Islamabad—the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman has been repeatedly accusing the U.S. of being responsible for his ouster. Citing a diplomatic cable, which he initially described as a “threat letter,” Khan has alleged that Washington had warned Pakistan of “consequences” if he were not removed from office.
Despite the PTI’s claims, however, Pakistan’s security establishment has repeatedly stressed that the diplomatic cable did not contain any evidence of a “foreign conspiracy.” Two separate meetings of the National Security Committee—one chaired by Khan and another by Sharif—have noted that while the cable suggested “blatant interference” in Pakistan’s affairs and merited a demarche, it did not contain any material that pointed to any conspiracy. The ousted prime minister, however, has continued the narrative in various speeches since his ouster, with analysts suggesting it is a bid to shore up his support by tapping into the anti-American sentiment prevalent among the Pakistani population.
Both the U.S. State Department and the White House, in separate statements, have repeatedly denied the allegations.
During Tuesday’s briefing, Price was also asked about a phone call between Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The spokesperson said he could not confirm any bilateral meetings between the two during an upcoming food security summit, but noted the two had discussed the 75th anniversary of U.S.-Pakistani relations and means by which their cooperation could be strengthened in future.
“It is a broad-based bilateral relationship. The secretary underscored the resolute U.S.-Pakistan commitment to Afghan stability and to combating terrorism as well. They also discussed ongoing engagement when it comes to our economic ties, trade and investment, climate, energy, health, and education,” he said, adding that he expected them to follow-up on their discussions in future.
To another question on whether the U.S. and Pakistan planned to continue their education exchange relationship, he said: “Our educational exchange program, whether it’s with Pakistan, whether it’s with any other country, it’s a core element of our people-to-people ties. We’ve been fortunate to have Pakistanis studying here in this country. We have American students who’ve had the opportunity to study in Pakistan. Those types of exchanges are always helpful, are always valuable as we seek to understand our partners and, as Americans, seek to better understand the world, and as we have other countries better understand America.”