Won’t let ‘lies’ get in way of ties with Pakistan, says US on Imran’s conspiracy allegations

Price made these remarks during a press briefing on Tuesday while answering a question about former prime minister Imran Khan blaming the US for his ouster from office and running an “anti-America campaign”.

“Sir, former prime minister Imran Khan is still blaming US efforts from — for his ouster from prime minister office and leading an anti-American campaign. So, do you think that his anti-American campaign [is] creating fractures among the structure of the diplomatic relation between Pakistan and [the] US or — or it doesn’t matter?” a reporter asked Price.

In response, Price said: “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.”

Imran, who was voted out of the top office last month via a no-confidence vote, alleges the move was masterminded by the US through the help of local collaborators over his pursuance of an independent foreign policy.

On March 27, days before his ouster, the former PM had brandished a letter at a rally in Islamabad, claiming it contained evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” hatched to topple his government. Imran had kept a mum about the contents of the letter when he first mentioned it, however, he spilled the beans days later by naming the US when the exit of the government appeared imminent.

His allegation that the US spearheaded his exit from power was based on a cable received from Pakistan’s then-ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed Khan, in which he had reported about a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu.

Majeed had reportedly said Lu had warned that Imran Khan’s continuation in office, who was set to face a vote of no confidence, would have repercussions on bilateral relations between the US and Pakistan.

The Pentagon and the State Department have rejected the accusations, saying there is no veracity to them.

The National Security Committee (NSC), which includes all services chiefs as well as the head of Pakistan’s top intelligence agency ISI, took up the matter on March 31 and decided to issue a “strong demarche” to a country that it did not name over what was termed “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan”.

However, the forum has clarified that no foreign conspiracy had been at play to topple the Imran Khan-led government.

Meanwhile, Imran and his party maintain that a foreign conspiracy was behind the PTI government’s ouster and he went on to allege during a video message on May 7 that the “conspiracy” to topple his government started after he refused the demand for military bases. He has repeated those claims on various occasions, including at public rallies, following his exit.

Blinken-Bilawal call

During Tuesday’s briefing, Price was also asked about a call made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Pakistan’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari last week, during which the US official invited Bilawal to Washington to attend a United Nations food security summit on May 8 (tomorrow).

According to a Dawn report, which cites diplomatic sources, it so far remains unclear whether Bilawal will attend the meeting physically or address it virtually.

Speaking on the matter, Price said: “I don’t have any bilateral meetings to preview during the — next week’s food security gathering in New York.

“What I can say is that Secretary Blinken did have an opportunity to speak with his new Pakistani counterpart, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, last week — May 6, I believe it was,” he added.

The State Department spokesperson said during the call, Blinken and Bilawal had “an opportunity to reflect on the 75th anniversary of US-Pakistani relations, to talk about how we can strengthen that cooperation going forward.

“It is a broad-based bilateral relationship. The Secretary underscored the resolute US-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,” Price further said, adding that the conversation was “wide-ranging”, as these introductory conversations oftentimes were.

“I expect before long they will have an opportunity to follow up on that,” he added.

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