PAKISTAN prime minister Imran Khan has accused the United States of meddling in Islamabad’s politics – a claim quickly denied by Washington – as a debate on a no-confidence motion against him in parliament was postponed.
No Pakistan premier has ever seen out a full term, and Khan is facing the biggest challenge to his rule since being elected in 2018, with opponents accusing him of economic mismanagement and foreign-policy bungling.
The government is also battling to contain a rise in militancy by the Pakistan Taliban, which on Wednesday (30) announced an offensive against security forces during Ramadan, due to begin within days with the sighting of the next new moon.
Fighting for his political life, Khan addressed the nation on Thursday (31) night, appearing to blunder when he named the US as the origin of a “message” he said showed meddling in Pakistan’s affairs.
“America has – oh, not America but a foreign country I can’t name. I mean from a foreign country, we received a message,” he said.
Local media have reported the message was in a briefing letter from Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington recording a senior US official telling him they felt relations would be better if Khan left office.
“They say that ‘our anger will vanish if Imran Khan loses this no-confidence vote’,” he said.
In Washington, state department spokesman Ned Price told reporters there was “no truth” to the allegations.
“We are closely following developments in Pakistan. We respect (and) we support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law,” Price said.
Khan first raised the issue Sunday (27) – citing an unnamed “foreign power” – at a huge rally of his supporters in Islamabad, capping weeks of political turmoil since the opposition raised the idea of a no-confidence vote.
He has long complained that Pakistan was asked to sacrifice too much in joining Washington’s “war on terror”, launched in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, with too little recognition or reward.
“Has anyone said ‘thank you Pakistan’ for what we did?” he asked in Thursday’s address.
Khan spoke off-the-cuff for around 45 minutes, touching on several favourite topics including his efforts to get Islamophobia recognised as a global threat, and charting an independent path for Pakistan on the world stage.
Khan raised Western ire by visiting Moscow the day Russia invaded Ukraine, but he defended the trip, saying: “Even European leaders went to Russia, but Pakistan in particular is asked ‘why did you go’ as if we are their servants .”