Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has expressed a desire to move past his widely-debunked U.S.-led conspiracy to oust his government, saying he blames previous Pakistani governments for the “master-servant” relationship between Islamabad and Washington over the U.S.
Speaking with Britain’s Financial Times, Khan stepped back from months of alleging the U.S. had financed a conspiracy to oust him from the Prime Minister’s Office, stressing that he did not blame the U.S. for the unequal ties between Washington and Islamabad. “As far as I’m concerned it is over, it’s behind me,” he said to a question on the U.S.’s role in the alleged conspiracy. “The Pakistan I want to lead must have good relationships with everyone, especially the United States,” he added.
“Our relationship with the U.S. has been as of a master-servant relationship, or a master-slave relationship, and we’ve been used like a hired gun,” he said. “But for that I blame my own governments more than the U.S.,” he added.
This is a marked departure from the ousted prime minister’s oft-repeated claims of the incumbent government being “imposed” on Pakistan by the U.S. Since a public rally in March, when he waved a piece of paper before the crowd claiming it contained “proof” of his allegations of a “foreign regime change conspiracy,” he has repeatedly made the so-called “illegal” ouster a key plank of his public appearances. Washington has repeatedly denied this, saying it had no role in the vote of no-confidence that led to Khan’s ouster, while two separate meetings of the National Security Committee have also stressed that the diplomatic memo sent to Pakistan by its then-envoy to Washington necessitated a demarche but did not amount to any form of conspiracy.
In his interview, Khan also addressed his visit to Moscow on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, describing it as “embarrassing.” However, he maintained that the trip was organized months in advance and could not be abandoned at that juncture.
On the role of the military in Pakistan, the PTI chief said the Army could play a “constructive role,” but maintained there needs to be a balance in civil-military ties. “… You cannot have an elected government which has the responsibility given by the people, while the authority lies somewhere else,” he said, referring to several previous statements in which he has claimed to be a “powerless” prime minister. This, too, is in stark contrast to remarks issued by him while in government, when he would loudly—and repeatedly—proclaim that the civilian government and the armed forces are on the “same page” and there is no difference of opinion on any matters of governance or policymaking.
Nothing wrapped up
Reacting to the interview, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Khan could not just make the issue vanish by “sweeping it under a rug,” adding that he must be held accountable for his “lies.” In a series of posts on Twitter, she said it was “not enough” for Khan to disassociate himself from statements in which he had “spread chaos and lies.” Describing Khan as a “foreign-funded instigator who played with the national interest,” she said he could not “wrap up the matter” after calling Parliament, the armed forces and institutions as traitors in multiple speeches. “No way Imran Khan, no way,” she said, alleging he had withdrawn from his narrative after “destroying the country” because he “thinks his supporters are insane.”
Similarly, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) described the PTI chief’s statements as the “mother of all U-Turns,” and questioned who should be held responsible for the damage he had caused to the country’s diplomatic ties. “The audio leak has clearly proven that Imran Khan fabricated a false narrative on the cipher issue and also planned to ‘play’ on it,” she said, referring to the allegedly leaked recording of a conversation between Khan and his then-principal secretary.
“This is not the case of 35 punctures, which could later be dismissed as a political statement,” she said, referring to Khan’s since-dismissed claims of rigging in 35 constituencies of Punjab during the 2013 general elections. “It was a matter of national security that Imran Khan will have to account for,” she added.