A secret diplomatic cable obtained from a confidential Pakistani military source suggests that the US State Department exerted pressure on Pakistan to remove Prime Minister Imran Khan due to his purported neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict. The cable outlines a meeting that took place on March 7, 2022, between US State Department officials and Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan. The cable documents a candid discussion that sheds light on the alleged coercion and diplomatic maneuvering by the United States.
During the meeting, US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu expressed deep concerns about Pakistan's neutrality in the ongoing Ukraine conflict, attributing this policy directly to Prime Minister Khan. Ambassador Khan, however, clarified that Pakistan's stance on Ukraine was a consensus reached within the government, rather than a unilateral decision made by Khan alone. Despite this explanation, Lu persisted in laying blame squarely on the Prime Minister's behavior.
Lu reportedly went a step further, suggesting that if a successful no-confidence vote were to be passed against Khan, the US would view the situation more favorably and potentially forgive the perceived transgressions. Conversely, if such an effort were to fail, the cable hinted at potential consequences including isolation and the risk of European alignment with the US stance on Ukraine.
Ambassador Khan observed that the threat appeared to originate from the highest levels of the White House and recommended a robust diplomatic response to the situation. Khan even drew parallels between Lu's implications and his eventual removal from office, suggesting that the US had a role in engineering his downfall.
Following Khan's removal, his successor Shehbaz Sharif assumed office, acknowledging the existence of the secret diplomatic cable. However, Sharif stopped short of fully confirming Khan's claims, leaving room for speculation.
While the US categorically denied any involvement in pressuring Pakistan to remove Khan from power, the contents of the diplomatic cable spoke otherwise. The cable contained explicit threats and promises linked to compliance, both attributed to President Joe Biden's office. The situation subsequently took a surprising turn, with Pakistan's foreign policy shifting from neutrality to active support for Ukraine. This was evidenced by Pakistan's supply of weapons to Ukraine and the formation of a defense pact between the two nations, indicating a distinct alignment with the US stance.
Khan's enduring popularity among the public remained evident in subsequent polls, despite his removal from office. The former Prime Minister's fortunes took a downturn as he was sentenced to prison on corruption charges, effectively barring him from participating in upcoming elections.
Khan also faces prosecution under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly revealing the contents of the classified cable that documented the purported conspiracy to unseat him.