Forum of civil and military leaders did not endorse ousted PM's claim of an American conspiracy to unseat him, Pakistani army says, but insists a demarche was given to US for "undiplomatic language" and "interference."
Pakistan's military has dismissed ousted prime minister Imran Khan's accusation that the United States had conspired to topple him in a parliamentary vote of confidence but said a protest demarche was handed to the Americans "for undiplomatic language" and "interference."
Khan initially blocked the no-confidence motion, saying a forum of civil and military leaders, the National Security Committee (NSC), had endorsed in a statement his claims of conspiracy to unseat him.
The military's spokesperson, Major General Babar Iftikhar, denied Khan's accusations on Thursday, saying "You can see clearly whether there's any word of conspiracy in that statement. I don't think so," he told a news conference in reference to an NSC statement this month.
The NSC statement had expressed concern over the non-diplomatic language used in a cable from a "foreign country", widely assumed to mean the United States, about the no-confidence vote.
Iftikhar said the cipher from the former Pakistani envoy to the US was also received by the country's top intelligence agency ISI "and it briefed the NSC based on that cable."
Khan's government had sent a demarche to the American embassy in Islamabad telling them that "you have interfered in [the no-confidence vote]."
Iftikhar explained demarche in this case "was given for undiplomatic language and is equal to interference."
No conspiracy against Khan, says Fauj.— W. S. Khan (@WajSKhan) April 14, 2022
Interference, yes. Conspiracy, no. pic.twitter.com/5pgru1sZEg
Immediately after Iftikhar's press conference, Pakistanis took to social media with Khan's supporters claiming "interference" amounted to "conspiracy" and his critics saying the two words are not synonymous.
Khan, 69, who led the nuclear-armed South Asian country of 220 million people for 3-1/2 years, accused Washington of backing his ouster because he had visited Moscow against US advice – a charge Washington denies.
Khan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, the day Russian forces launched a military offensive in neighbouring Ukraine.
Pakistan's lower house of parliament eventually voted in favour of removing Khan from office on Sunday.
"Blatant interference" versus "foreign conspiracy". Remember: words don't mean much on their own, specially in a charged political environment like ours. As per Khan's supporters, "blatant interference" is nothing but confirmation of orchestrated design/plot.— Hassan Aslam Shad (@HassShad) April 14, 2022
Ex-minister seeks judicial probe
Opposition parties and analysts say the military helped Khan win the election in 2018, which they both deny, 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 United States conspired to topple Khan.
"There is a mention of interference in its (NSC) statement. It says that a foreign country has interfered in the internal affairs of Pakistan. What was the nature of the interference, and what is its depth, who were the handlers, who they were meeting" would become clear when it is probed, Chaudhry said, according to the local media.
He said that the NSC statement should be taken as the point of departure in the investigation into the "foreign conspiracy".
میری نظر میں @OfficialDGISPR کا بیان نیشنل سیکیورٹی کونسل کی پریس ریلیز کی ہی توثیق ہے، سیکیورٹی کونسل نے کہا کہ پاکستان کی سیاست میں بیرونی مداخلت کی مذمت کرتے ہیں لفظ سازش استعمال نہیں ہوا اب اہم ہے کہ جوڈیشل کمیشن بنے جو اس مداخلت کی تحقیقات کرے ، یہ مداخلت کہاں سے ہوئ— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) April 14, 2022
Army chief not seeking extension
Iftikhar also denied Khan's assertion that the army chief of staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, had offered to help mediate his 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.
Iftikhar denied Bjawa was seeking an extension, saying the army chief will retire in November.
He also clarified that the United States had never asked for military bases in Pakistan after US-led forces' withdrawal 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 Americans.
Khan has levelled allegations in his massive public rallies, demanding snap elections.
The next parliamentary election is due in 2023.