Secret Pakistan Cable Documents U.S. Pressure to Remove Imran Khan

The Intercept acquired a confidential document from the Pakistani government that indicates the U.S. State Department urged the Pakistani government during a meeting on March 7, 2022, to oust Imran Khan from his position as prime minister due to his impartiality regarding the Russian incursion into Ukraine.

Supporters of Khan and his military and civilian opponents have been vying for power in Pakistan over the past year and a half, leading to intense scrutiny, controversy, and speculation. During this time, Khan, the most popular politician in Pakistan, faced baseless charges which were dismissed, but later he was sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges, marking his second time facing such charges since his political struggle escalated in August. The meeting between the Pakistani ambassador and United States officials from the Department of State has also been a highly debated topic.

At the behest of Khan, the United States asserts that his ousting was orchestrated, as Khan and his followers have been entangled in a conflict with the armed forces and their civilian partners since then. It is widely believed that the vote was orchestrated with the support of Pakistan’s influential military, resulting in Khan’s removal from authority, just a month following the encounter with American officials as recorded in the leaked document from the Pakistani government.

He was not Khan, but if relations were warmer and promising, the Department of State deployed sticks and carrots to push against Khan, as revealed internally in a cable known as “cypher”. The cable has not been previously published. It was transmitted to Pakistan and the text of the cable was produced from a meeting with the Pakistani ambassador.

The labeled document “Secret” includes an account of the meeting of officials from the Department of State, including Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs Donald Lu and Ambassador Khan Majeed Asad, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan.

The Intercept can use their track and documents watermark to disseminate details such as correcting minor typos in the text, below the body of the cable. The document provided to The Intercept by an anonymous source in the Pakistani military said that they had no ties to Khan’s party or Khan Imran.

Pakistan and the United States had a improving relationship, as assured in the meeting, after Khan’s removal, which promptly reversed the U.S.’S opposition to Khan’s foreign policy on the conflict in Ukraine, as explained in the cable. Subsequent events confirmed the nature of the relationship between Pakistan and the United States, as detailed in the cable. The presentation by The Intercept excluded the classification labels, including the specifics in the cable itself and the conditions of the meeting, which aligned with the information reported in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn and other sources. The document acquired by The Intercept encompasses these materials.

The diplomatic meeting between Washington and Moscow, which took place two weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, left Washington enraged.

Officials from the State Department were not in contact with Khan regarding the matter, Van Hollen seemed to be angry. Lu stated, “Prime Minister Khan recently traveled to Moscow, so we are currently figuring out how to specifically engage with the Prime Minister after that decision.” In response to a query from Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Regarding Pakistan’s recent decision to abstain from a United Nations resolution denouncing Russia’s involvement in the conflict, Lu was questioned at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about the impartiality of India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan in the Ukraine conflict. Lu had been questioned on March 2, just a few days prior to the meeting.

We are not part of any alliance. We are friends of Europe and China. We are also friends of the United States and Russia. What do you think, do you consider us to be your slaves? Khan thundered to the crowd, “What do you think of us? Are we your slaves?” The day before, Khan directly responded to the European rally calls behind Ukraine and addressed a rally in Pakistan.

The policy of the Prime Minister is evident, it appears rather evident that. Lu included that he had conducted internal discussions with the U.S. National Security Council and “it does not appear such a neutral position to us.” If such a standpoint is even possible, individuals here and in Europe are quite anxious about why Pakistan is adopting such a assertively neutral stance (on Ukraine), the document cites Lu stating. Lu spoke in candid terms about Washington’s dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s position in the conflict, as per the document, during the meeting.

Lu stated, as per the document, “Alternatively,” he added, “I believe it will be challenging moving forward.” Lu then straightforwardly brings up the matter of a vote of non-confidence: “I think that if the vote of non-confidence against the Prime Minister prevails, all will be pardoned in Washington since the visit to Russia is being regarded as a choice made by the Prime Minister.”

Lu cautioned that if the situation was not resolved, he suspected that their reaction would be similar, although he couldn’t exactly predict how Europe would perceive it. Lu added that he believed Khan should stay in office and warned that Pakistan could face “isolation” from Western allies in Europe.

Miller stated that he would refrain from providing any remarks regarding confidential diplomatic conversations. Matthew Miller, the spokesperson for the State Department, mentioned that there is no indication in the alleged statements that suggests the United States is expressing a standpoint on the desired leader of Pakistan. When questioned about the excerpts from Lu in the cable from Pakistan.

The United States did not respond in kind. It did not anticipate Pakistan’s backing on all matters that held significance for the United States. Additionally, there was a sense of being disregarded or perhaps even undervalued within Pakistan. This hesitancy had given rise to a perception in Pakistan due to the absence of involvement from American authorities, prompting the Pakistani ambassador to voice their frustration.

We will need to address this issue head on and confront it in order to manage it effectively. Otherwise, if we quickly move away from it, the disagreement about this big issue will still exist, which means that we will have to wait a few days to see if there are any political changes that can help resolve the situation. From our perspective, it can be argued that this issue has already created a dent in our relationship with Pakistan. However, the damage is not real and the relationship can go back to normal with Khan. The ambassador of Pakistan expressed hope that the issue of the Ukraine-Russia war would not have an impact on our bilateral ties, according to the discussion concluded in the document.

The no-confidence vote’s procedural step key a with forward moved Parliament in opponents Khan’s, March 8, on meeting the after day the.

Arif Rafiq, a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute and an expert on Pakistan, expressed, “However, it was uncertain. Khan’s destiny was not determined during the occurrence of this meeting.” “By indicating that conditions will improve if he is ousted, what we have here is the Biden administration conveying a message to the individuals they perceive as Pakistan’s actual leaders.”

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The Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C. Did not respond to a request for comment. Independent sources within the Pakistani government were unable to confirm, given the security climate in Pakistan. The Intercept has made extensive efforts to authenticate the document.

The United States has privately and publicly communicated to the opposition in Pakistan that they have always been false and that false is to continue. “He added that the allegations that the United States has interfered in the internal decisions of Pakistan’s leadership are false,” the spokesperson for the Department of State, Miller, said. We expressed concern about Khan PM’s visit to Moscow on the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

American Rejections

Porter stated, “Let me bluntly say that there is absolutely no truth to these allegations.” Jalina, the spokesperson for the Department of State, asked Porter about the veracity of his claim that there was interference by the U.S. In Khan’s alleged cable, which occurred in April 2022. The Department of State has previously denied Lu’s repeated requests to overthrow the Pakistani government.

The State Department referred to previous denials when responding to a request for comment on the allegation. Khan sat down for an interview with The Intercept in June 2023, specifically in early June.

Pakistan or any other nation” in Pakistan or any other nation. The United States does not have a stance on one political candidate or party versus another in Pakistan or any other nation. “I don’t know how many times I can express it. … The United States does not have a stance on one political candidate or party versus another in Pakistan or any other nation.” Miller stated, chuckling and eliciting laughter from the press. “I feel like I need to bring just a sign that I can hold up in response to this question and say that that accusation is not true,” Miller said, chuckling and eliciting laughter from the press. On the most recent occasion, Miller, the State Department spokesperson, mocked the question. Throughout June and July, at least three times in press conferences and once more in a speech by a deputy assistant secretary of state for Pakistan, who referred to the allegations as “propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation.” Khan has not retreated, and the State Department once again refuted the accusation.

The Pakistani military has launched an unprecedented assault on civil society, silencing free expression and dissent that previously existed in the country. This drama has played out in the press and the public, broadcasted over cable.

In recent months, the military-led government has expanded the already expansive role of the country’s institution, giving permanent veto power to military leaders and granting them authority over civil and political affairs. This move has been criticized for not only reducing civil liberties but also for enshrining authoritarian powers for the military. The passing of a new law last week, which allows for lengthy jail terms for whistleblowers and authorizes warrantless searches, further demonstrates the government’s crackdown on suspected leakers within its own institutions, as well as dissenters and not just during the series of mass riots and protests that have shaken public support for Khan.

The Department of State attempted to add a measure to the National Defense Authorization Act, directing the examination of Pakistan’s backsliding democratic situation, but it was denied a vote on the House floor. In a statement issued after his visit to Pakistan in late July, Gen. Michael Kurilla, the head of U.S. Central Command, mentioned that his visit had focused on “strengthening military-to-military relations,” while largely ignoring the sweeping attacks on democracy in the country.

“We think that this is an internal issue for Pakistan,” stated Miller, the spokesperson for the State Department, in answer to a query regarding whether Khan was given a just trial, during a press briefing on Monday.

Political Turmoil

The current leaders of Pakistan are struggling to confront an economic crisis that has paralyzed their institutions and swept the country into chaos. The flight of capital and staggering inflation rates resulting from the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered an economic and political crisis, leading to protests against Khan’s suppression and dismissal. It is believed that the same institution, the Pakistani military, engineered Khan’s removal from power after falling out with him, throwing the nation of 230 million into political and economic turmoil.

Several reports have emerged of torture by security forces resulting in deaths while in custody.

Impossible to effectively document reporting inside Pakistan’s institutions and by reporters has been made impossible. The press has created a fear of climate, with attacks on journalists who were among the handful briefed on the contents of the cable before Khan’s ouster. This secret cable has taken on a mythical status in Pakistan, making it nearly impossible to report on its contents.

It is likely that Khan would vote to participate in the show Polls if he were allowed to. His imprisonment has been viewed as an attempt by the military to stop him from contesting the upcoming elections, and has been criticized by many within his government, including his supporters. In November last year, Khan himself was subject to an assassination attempt when he was shot at a political rally, resulting in one of his supporters being wounded.

According to Rafiq, a scholar at the Middle East Institute, “they possess the knowledge to manipulate the United States in their favor.” “During significant geopolitical rivalries such as the Cold War or the war on terror, the Pakistani military employs external forces as a means to maintain their dominance over the nation.” “Despite the Biden administration’s assertion that human rights will be a primary focus of their foreign policy, they are turning a blind eye as Pakistan moves closer to becoming a fully established military dictatorship,” he added. “He has witnessed numerous of his supporters being incarcerated, a journalist who supported him being assassinated, and he has previously survived an assassination attempt.” “Khan was found guilty based on weak accusations following a trial where his defense was not even permitted to present witnesses.”

Khan’s legal troubles have been exacerbated by his repeated allusions to the cable itself while discussing it in violation of state secrets laws, and whether he initiated a distinct inquiry with prosecutors.

Democracy and the Armed Forces

For years, the U.S. Government has had a long-standing patronage relationship with the Pakistani military, which has been seen as an impenetrable obstacle to the country’s ability to grow its economy and combat endemic corruption. Despite the trappings of democracy, Pakistan lacks a meaningful sense of independence because of this relationship, which has made the military an untouchable force in domestic politics. The involvement of the U.S. In the removal of even popular prime ministers charges the military with an incendiary role in politics. Despite this, the military remains the real powerbroker in the country, with the ability to hinder the pursuit of constructive foreign policy.

The separation of Bangladesh resulted in a crisis reminiscent of the 1971 situation that is pushing Pakistan towards a similar path. In the midst of the government’s harsh actions, there is a general sense of dissatisfaction among the public towards the military. Recent military propaganda has exploited the memory of deceased service members for political gain, which has had an impact on the military’s morale. Additionally, their involvement in the political fight against Khan has contributed to their growing disillusionment with the country’s military leadership. These concerns were voiced by The Intercept’s source, who had access to the document as a military member.

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The source added that the leaked document would finally confirm what ordinary people, as well as the ranks and files of the Pakistani armed forces, had long suspected: that there was a reckoning within the institution and a suspected force within the military.

Former Prime Minister Khan Azam’s top bureaucrat, Principal Secretary Khan Azam, issued a recorded statement in front of a judiciary member, saying that the cable had exaggerated the political gains of the former prime minister. However, it was indeed true that Khan Azam’s party faced a military crackdown amid the month of June, leading to his detention and arrest.

The armed forces were not impartial, but Khan’s stance of impartiality was documented in the cable, bringing the public perception in line with Lu’s confidential observation. Qamar Bajwa, the former chief of the Pakistan army, censured Russia in a speech where he referred to the Russian incursion as a “massive catastrophe”. Khan was ousted from power shortly after the meeting mentioned in the cable, and this occurred one month afterward.

Meanwhile, the foreign minister of Ukraine, who traveled to Pakistan, is presumed to be focusing on environmental and education issues and trade, but there is wide speculation about military cooperation. In an earlier interview, a European Union official confirmed that Ukraine has been regularly turning to Pakistan as a supplier of arms, as evidenced by footage showing Pakistan-produced ammunition and shells on the battlefield. Pakistan’s neutrality in the conflict in Ukraine has now been abandoned, and it is clearly leaning more towards the European and U.S. Side. This significant shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy has occurred since Khan’s removal.

The realignment of the Pakistani military towards the U.S. Has emerged to offer advantages. A Pakistani newspaper reported on August 3, 2020, that the Parliament had approved the signing of a defense pact with the U.S., Which covered areas such as equipment and basing, training, operations, exercises, and joint efforts. The agreement was intended to replace a previous 15-year deal between the two countries that expired in 2020.

Pakistani “Assessment.”

The diplomatic protest issued by Khan’s government was later addressed. The cable concludes with a recommendation to seriously reflect on this and consider making an appropriate demarche to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, regarding the acting head of the diplomatic mission effectively serving as the interim ad d’affaires chargé. Don repeatedly expressed his views on the internal political process in Pakistan, without seeking approval from the White House for such a strong demarche. Don could not convey such a strong demarche without the approval of the White House, as he repeatedly referred to. The cable concludes with a recommendation to seriously reflect on this and consider making an appropriate demarche to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, regarding the acting head of the diplomatic mission effectively serving as the interim ad d’affaires chargé. Don repeatedly expressed his views on the internal political process in Pakistan, without seeking approval from the White House for such a strong demarche. The diplomatic protest issued by Khan’s government was later addressed.

He reportedly spoke publicly about the contents of the cable, which was folded and waved in the air during the rally. This happened in the same month as the meeting with Lu, in which he was reportedly briefed on the same day, March 27th. He also reportedly briefed the heads of various security agencies in Pakistan during a national security meeting.

Khan was removed from power on April 10 in a vote of no confidence. Nevertheless, the political circumstances had changed by the subsequent month. It remains uncertain what transpired in the communications between Pakistan and the United States during the weeks that ensued after the meeting detailed in the cable.

Khan’s wider assertions did not verify the cable but warned that Pakistan had officially lodged a complaint. Lu’s behavior was improper, and some of the information conveyed by Lu acknowledged the presence of the cable and ultimately verified the new prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif.

Khan has repeatedly suggested in public that the top-secret cable showed that the U.S. Directed his removal from power, but his subsequent revised assessment as he urged the U.S. To condemn human rights abuses against his supporters may have only been because the military manipulated him, as he told The Intercept in a June interview.

The disclosure of the full body of cable suggests that finally, competing claims will be evaluated and Khan’s arrest and deposition will be allowed after a year. The cypher text strongly suggests that the U.S. Encouraged the removal of Khan. While hinting at rewards for his removal, it was said that if Khan were to stay on as prime minister, he would suffer severe consequences, including international isolation. Lu did not directly order Khan to be taken out of office. The remarks appear to have been taken as a signal for the Pakistani military to act.

Sanaullah stated that a case will be initiated against him on behalf of the state for exposing confidential communication, which is a violation of the official secrets act, and he has conspired against the state’s interests. The Interior Minister, Sanaullah, stated last month that Khan would be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act in connection with the cable. Khan himself continues to be targeted by the new government for his handling of the secret cable, in addition to his other legal issues.

Khan, who failed to finish their term in office, has now joined the long list of Pakistani politicians who have failed. According to Lu, Khan was personally blamed for Pakistan’s nonalignment policy during the Ukraine conflict by the U.S. Throughout the conversation, the future implications of U.S.-Pakistan ties loomed large, and there was no confidence vote.

“According to the document,” Lu stated, “I believe that the Prime Minister’s isolation from Europe and the United States will intensify significantly,” discussing the possibility of Khan remaining in power.

March 7, 2022 Pakistani Diplomatic Code (Transcription)

Khan Majeed Asad served as the ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, while Donald Lu was the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Central and South Asian Affairs. The Intercept has obtained a classified cable, labeled as “Secret,” which provides an account of a meeting between the officials of the Department of State, including the Secretary of State. The Intercept has removed numerical elements and classification markings that could be used for tracking purposes. The publication of the cable by The Intercept includes minor corrections of typos and the use of watermarks on documents for dissemination and to reveal specific details mentioned in the text.

Today, I had a luncheon meeting with Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. Les Viguerie, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, accompanied him. Qasim, Counsellor, Deputy Assistant Secretary, and Deputy Chief of Mission joined us.

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In such a circumstance, any political leader, whether in Pakistan or the United States, would be compelled to provide a public response. The Prime Minister’s comments during a political rally were in response to the public letter from European Ambassadors in Islamabad, which went against diplomatic decorum and protocol. Pakistan had never engaged in public diplomacy before. This was not an accurate interpretation of the situation as Pakistan’s stance on Ukraine was the result of extensive consultations among various agencies. I responded that this was connected to the ongoing political events in Islamabad that the Prime Minister feels the need to display a public image. He added that he believed this to be the Prime Minister’s policy, as it is evident in his discussions with the NSC. People, both here and in Europe, are genuinely concerned about why Pakistan has taken such a strongly impartial stance on Ukraine, if such a position is even feasible. Initially, Don mentioned Pakistan’s position on the Ukraine crisis and stated that “people, both here and in Europe, are genuinely concerned about why Pakistan has taken such a strongly impartial stance on Ukraine, if such a position is even feasible. It does not appear to us as a particularly neutral standpoint.”

Don further commented that the idea of him going to Moscow was not successful, which was originally planned during the Beijing Olympics. He also stated that he honestly believed that the Prime Minister’s attempt to meet with Putin would not be well received by the United States and Europe, and that it may lead to the Prime Minister’s isolation. He admitted that he couldn’t predict exactly how Europe would react, but he suspected it would be similar to the United States. He then paused and said that he thought it would be a tough road ahead. He believed that if the Prime Minister’s decision to visit Russia was seen negatively, he would not be forgiven in Washington and may face a vote of no-confidence. In response to Don’s question about Pakistan’s abstention in the UNGA voting, he categorically replied that it was due to the strong negative reaction from the US.

I said that our position is dictated by our desire to keep open channels of communication with all sides, clearly spelling out our reaffirmation of the principle of non-Charter use or force of the UN and our commitment to territorial integrity and sovereignty of peaceful settlements. I stressed that the visit of the Prime Minister was purely in a bilateral context and should not be seen as an endorsement or condonation of Russia’s actions against Ukraine. I drew attention to the fact that the Prime Minister, while in Moscow, regretted the situation and hoped for diplomatic efforts to work towards a resolution. I also pointed out that leaders of European countries were traveling to Moscow around the same time. I stressed that when the Prime Minister flew to Moscow, it was not an endorsement of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and that there was still hope for a peaceful resolution. I told Don that the visit to Moscow had been the result of a deliberative institutional process and had been in the works for at least a few years. I emphasized that this perception was completely wrong and misinformed.

I replied that I was exactly afraid of what we were worried about, which was the crisis in Ukraine. I did not want to divert focus away from Afghanistan to comment on Russia and Ukraine. Don replied that the U.S. Should now focus on discussing only Ukraine with Russia at the upcoming meeting in Antalya, or the Extended Troika meeting, in which Russian representatives would be present. I also mentioned that ongoing discussions were still taking place in Beijing regarding whether the U.S. Should attend the Extended Troika meeting. From this perspective, it was essential to maintain open communication channels and dictate our position on the Ukraine crisis, as well as coordinate and cooperate with all major powers, including Russia. Our priority was to achieve stability and peace in Afghanistan, considering the high price we had already paid due to the long-term impact of this conflict. Don also informed me that Pakistan was worried about how the crisis in Ukraine would play out in the context.

Don replied that the situation in Pakistan’s political engagement had not settled down till now, and it was not the right time for such engagement, according to Washington’s thinking. Minister of Foreign Affairs sought to speak personally with Secretary Blinken to explain Pakistan’s perspective and position on the Ukraine crisis, as high-level engagement with the US continued to be valued. We were also surprised that the US had not engaged with us at the top leadership level on the Ukraine crisis, even before the scheduled UN vote and the visit to Moscow. I also said that it was important for us to see much support from the US on Pakistan’s concerns and for the US to reciprocate, but it seemed that this was not happening. This reluctance created a perception in Pakistan that we were being taken for granted and ignored. I also mentioned that there had consistently been a sense of reluctance on the part of the US leadership to engage with our leadership over the past year. I told Don that I would also convey our perspective in a straightforward manner.

I will take leadership on my back and emphasize that you have clearly conveyed the position that “countries should not be made to choose sides in complex situations like the Ukraine crisis.” I reiterated the need for active bilateral communications at the political leadership level.

During the recently conducted Senate Sub-Committee hearing on U.S.-India relations, I informed Don that we had observed his defense of the Indian stance on the Ukraine crisis. It appeared that the U.S. Was employing different standards for India and Pakistan. Don replied that the U.S. Legislators’ intense sentiments regarding India’s abstentions in the UNSC and UNGA were evident during the hearing. I mentioned that based on the proceedings, it seemed like the U.S. Anticipated more from India compared to Pakistan, yet it seemed to be more concerned about Pakistan’s position. Don evaded the question and stated that Washington viewed the U.S.-India relationship primarily through the perspective of the events unfolding in China. He further added that although India had a strong alliance with Moscow, “I believe we will witness a change in India’s policy once all Indian students have departed from Ukraine.”

Otherwise, we would quickly go away to decide on how to manage and confront this issue. This means we will have a few days to wait and see whether the political situation changes, so that we do not have a big disagreement about this issue. “I would argue that it has already created a dent in our relationship,” Don replied. “I hope that the visit of the Russian Prime Minister will not impact our bilateral ties,” I expressed.

Additionally, we discussed Afghanistan and various subjects pertaining to our shared connections. A separate discourse will ensue regarding that facet of our dialogue.


We need to seriously reflect on making an appropriate demarche to Islamabad in light of the internal political process in Pakistan. Don clearly spoke out about the need to address this matter repeatedly, which suggests that he could not have conveyed such a strong demarche without the approval of the White House.

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