Pakistan’s powerful military has dismissed deposed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s accusation that the United States had conspired to topple him in a parliamentary vote of confidence.
Khan, 69, who led the South Asian country of 220 million people for three and half years, accused Washington of backing his removal because he had visited Moscow against US advice. Washington has denied the charge.
Khan met Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, the day Russian forces invaded neighbouring Ukraine.
Khan initially blocked the no-confidence motion, saying a forum of civil and military leaders, the National Security Committee, had endorsed the alleged conspiracy.
The military’s spokesman, Major General Babar Iftikhar, denied that the country’s National Security Committee, a forum of civil and military leaders, had endorsed the alleged conspiracy.
“You can see clearly whether there’s any word of conspiracy in that statement. I don’t think so,” he told a news conference about an NSC statement this month which had expressed concern about non-diplomatic language used in a cable from a “foreign country”, widely assumed to mean the US, about the no-confidence vote.
Opposition parties and analysts have said the military helped Khan win the election in 2018, which both have denied, but that support waned after a falling-out over the appointment of the country’s next intelligence chief late last year.
Khan’s former information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, called for the setting up of a judicial commission to probe into the accusation that the US conspired to topple Khan.
Iftikhar denied Khan’s assertion that the army chief of staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, had offered to help mediate Khan’s deadlock with the opposition.
Instead, he said, Khan had asked Bajwa to convey to the opposition on his behalf that he would call snap elections if the no-confidence motion was withdrawn.
“[Bajwa] went to the opposition and placed this request in front of them, and after a detailed discussion they said that they wouldn’t take any such step, and that ‘we will go on as we have planned,'” said Iftikhar.
He also clarified that the US had never asked for military bases in Pakistan after US-led forces withdrew from Afghanistan last August. Khan’s party had said that Washington turned against him after he said “absolutely not” in a TV interview in response to a question about whether he would give the bases to the US.
Khan has aired the conspiracy allegations in his public rallies, demanding snap elections.
The next parliamentary election is due in 2023.