Former U.S. envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on Wednesday once again sought to “advise” Pakistan against proceeding against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), despite being told off over his “unsolicited advice” by the Foreign Office the previous week.
In a series of tweets, the former U.S. diplomat claimed there were “indications” that Parliament might ask the Supreme Court of Pakistan to disqualify Imran Khan from running for election or prohibit the PTI. “The government appears to have decided to set up Imran Khan as Enemy No. 1 of the State. Such steps will only deepen Pakistan’s triple crises: political, economic, and security. Already, some countries have suspended planned investments,” he claimed, adding that support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) remained “doubtful.”
Alleging that any action against Khan would lead to decline in international support for Pakistan, he warned that it would also likely boost political polarization and violence. “I hope the Pakistani political leaders rise above destructive petty politics that undermine the national interest. If not, I hope the Supreme Court says no to being used in games that undermine the nation’s interests. I am becoming increasingly concerned about Pakistan,” he added.
Condemning Khalilzad’s statement, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb issued a statement indicating he was acting on the PTI’s behest. “The origin of American conspiracy and the imported regime has come to light,” she said, referring to the PTI’s claims of the vote of no-confidence against Imran Khan arising out of an “American conspiracy” that he has used to describe the incumbent government as an “imported regime.”
Stating that the “Jewish lobby” had come forward to save Khan, who she described as a “stooge,” she added that his handlers were finally coming to light. Maintaining that the nexus of foreign funding now stood exposed, she said there was no longer any question on which political leader was a “foreign agent.” She warned that the PTI had mobilized “international lobbyists” to foment a civil war in Pakistan, adding that Khalilzad’s tweet was part of these efforts.
Last week, the former U.S. envoy had posted a series of similar tweets calling for elections and discouraging any arrest of Khan. In response, the Foreign Office had told him to back off and stop interfering in Pakistan’s affairs. “Pakistan does not need lectures or unsolicited advice from anyone on how to cope with the challenges we face today,” read a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “As a resilient nation, we will come out stronger from the present difficult situation,” it had added.
While it remains unclear why Khalilzad felt the need to comment on Pakistan’s domestic affairs, media reports have confirmed that the PTI engaged lobbying firms in the U.S. to secure support for it abroad. According to analysts, his statement appears to a pay-off for those efforts.