Khalilzad ‘pro-Imran statement’ irked FO

Islamabad says we do not need lectures


Kamran Yousaf March 15, 2023

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ISLAMABAD:

As political tensions deepen in Pakistan, the US role is once again in the discussion. This time a statement by a former US diplomat, who played a central role in the Afghan endgame, irked the Foreign Office.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US special envoy on Afghanistan, took to Twitter on Wednesday and warned against arresting Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan.

His statement caught many by a surprise given that the former prime minister repeatedly targeted the US for allegedly being behind his ouster from the government through a vote of no confidence in April last year.

As Lahore descended in chaos after the police attempted to arrest Imran, the former diplomat wrote: “Pakistan faces a triple crisis: political, economic, and security. Despite great potential, it is underperforming and falling far behind its archrival, India. It is time for serious soul-searching, bold thinking, and strategizing.”

“The sequential cannibalising of its leaders through jailing, execution, assassination, etc is the wrong path,” Khalilzad said. He went on to caution that Imran’s arrest would only “deepen the crisis”.

He suggested two steps to deal with the brewing political and economic crises. Khalilzad said first step would be hold parliamentary elections in June and secondly, he called for using this time for the main political parties to “confront what has gone wrong and propose a specific plan to rescue and put the country on a path to stability, security, and prosperity”.

“Whichever party wins the election will have a mandate from the people on what must be done,” he said.

His statement drew strong reaction from the Foreign Office. “Pakistan does not need lectures or unsolicited advice from anyone on how to cope with the challenges we face today. As a resilient nation we will come out stronger from the present difficult situation,” said the Foreign Office spokesperson in a statement reacting to Khalilzad’s suggestions and commentary on the current political situation of Pakistan.

Sources said that Khalilzad developed close ties with the government of prime minister Imran Khan when he was President Trump’s pointman on Afghanistan.
One source privy to the close contacts between then PTI government and former US diplomat, told The Express Tribune that Khalilzad played a key role in bringing Imran and Trump close on Afghanistan. The other person was Senator Lindsey Graham.

“Therefore, it is possible that Khalilzad issued a statement after being approached by the PTI,” said the source.

Khalilzad is not the first from the US who issued a statement in favour of Imran. Recently, US Congressman Brad Sherman too voiced concerns over the human rights situation, particularly with regard to alleged police highhandedness with the PTI workers.

Observers believe that it is possible that pro-Imran statements coming from the US may be the result of behind-the-scene lobbying by the PTI or its supporters having influence in Washington.

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