Aaj English TV

Monday, May 20, 2024  
11 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

US diplomat Donald Lu tells Congress he received death threats after Imran Khan’s cypher allegations

US Assistant Secretary of State says Pakistan’s military must be kept under civilian control
Pakistan After the Elections: Examining the Future of Democracy in Pakistan and the US-Pakistan…

Story highlights

  • Lu says US relations with Pakistan are at an ‘inflection point’
  • Some people chanted ‘release Imran Khan’ during Congress hearing
  • Diplomat says talking to the Pakistani government at the highest levels about issues related to access to social media
  • A congressman grills him about efforts to release Dr Shakil Afridi

US diplomat Donald Lu – whose name made headlines in Pakistan after the cypher controversy – told the Congress on Wednesday that he has received death threats after the allegations of involvement in the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan.

“One of the things that I have faced over these last two years is that some of these unfounded allegations have resulted in regular death threats against me, threats against my family, involvement of local police,” he said in response to a query from US representative Rich McCormick.

US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu appeared in the Congressional hearing on ‘Pakistan after the elections: Examining the future of democracy in Pakistan and the US-Pakistan relationship’.

Before answering the query, Lu spoke about the protest and said that the State Department and administration have “tremendous respect” for the Pakistani American community because they are the people in the vast country who care the most about the bilateral relationship.

The Pakistani Diaspora has something genuine to offer because of their deep knowledge and concerns with the country’s future, he said and added that the administration respects them. “We try to listen to them at every opportunity and listen to all of and to those of us who are trying to guide this policy.”

But Lu also mentioned the threats he has received after the allegations. “There is a line of acceptability, and I do think at times some of the free speech has verges into threats and violence which is not acceptable in our society.”

Former prime minister Imran Khan accused the US of backing the no-confidence motion against his removal from power in 2022. At the time, he alleged that had reportedly in a meeting with Ambassador Asad Majeed warned there could be implications if he survived the opposition’s no-confidence motion in the National Assembly.

But the State Department and the diplomat have several times denied such allegations. He reiterated that same thing during the hearing.

Lu was responding to the protest that began at the hall during his response to US Representative Joe Wilson’s question about his assessment of the unsubstantiated allegations that the US government conspired to remove Khan from power.

In his response, the diplomat described them as “conspiracy theories” and a lie. “It is a complete falsehood, I have reviewed the press reporting related to this what it is called in Pakistan ‘cypher’ the alleged leak of diplomatic cable from the embassy here.

When he said that it was not accurate, one of the people in the hall chanted “liar” and a couple of people raised their hands in protest.

He paused for a second and continued to say that at no point does it accuse the US government or him personally of taking steps against Imran Khan. He quoted the-then Pakistan’s envoy to the US Asad Majeed who testified to his government that there was no conspiracy.

Lu claimed that the country respected the sovereignty of Pakistan and the people should have the power to elect the government.

Some of the people in the hall started shouting when he finished his answer.

Before taking questions from Congressmen, Lu read out his written testimony that general elections in Pakistan seemed to be as per law but there had been “irregularities” in how the results were compiled.

Congressmen asked him about alleged rigging in elections, Pakistan’s economic debt, Dr Shakil Afridi who helped the American CIA in tracing the Al-Qaeda chief, floods, and democracy in Pakistan and India.

When asked about the status of ties with the country, he said that the relations with Pakistan were at an inflection point.

He went on to add that Pakistan has been caught up in the conflict after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, calling for supporting the country amid terrorism threats.

Lu also mentioned the recent terrorist attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s North Waziristan where seven soldiers were martyred.

According to the diplomat, Pakistan needed a functioning economy and a private sector-led growth not that fueled by a “lender country like the People’s Republic of China.”

When asked about his position on the incumbent government despite rigging allegations, he said that the Biden administration was seeing the investigations being conducted by the Election Commission of Pakistan to look into them.

At one point, he said Pakistan’s success was the success of US. He was of the view that Pakistani investors were smart and wanted those bureaucratic hurdles cut down.

In response to a query on the audit of election results, he said that the ECP has called for re-run elections where there have been reports of violence

“We call on the ECP to fulfil its constitutional role to be the watchdog and work in a non-partisan way and the way they do it.”

Sikh leader murder in US

He was questioned about any sanctions after an investigation into an alleged Indian attempt to assassinate a Sikh dissident on American soil.

“This is a serious issue between the US and India,” he said and added that the US administration took the issue “very seriously” and had raised it at the highest levels with India.

The US was working with India and encouraging it to hold accountable those who were responsible for the “terrible crime” and pointed to India’s announcement of creating an inquiry committee on the matter.

“We ask them to work quickly and transparently to make sure that justice is done,” he said.

US views Pakistan’s relationship with Afghan Taliban with ‘suspicion’

Lu said the South Asian country was a very “important partner” and a major non-Nato ally.

“We have deep national security interest with Pakistan, not the least of which is the fight against terrorism. Not only terrorism that affects Pakistanis but terrorism that affects Americans. Pakistan has been a partner in our resettling of Afghan refugees to who we owe a debt and we are grateful to the people and government of Pakistan for that cooperation.”

But he added that the US administration viewed Pakistan’s current relationship with the Afghan Taliban with “suspicion”.

The current greatest terrorist threat to Pakistan emanated from Afghanistan, he said, adding that the Taliban’s relationship with the neighbour was the same as their relationship with the US. “Very strained and difficult,” he added.

Lu said the US had a “very important dialogue” with Pakistan on shaping the Taliban’s behaviour and making sure that they upheld their commitments.

While speaking about the plight of Pakistani women, he said that he saw great victories in Pakistan. S

“Some days Pakistani women are doing better than Americans. As foreign partners, we need to put our speech and activism behind Pakistani women.”

He stressed the need for providing women access to cheap loan financing, an area where the US can tap the potential.

Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

Lu informed Congress that the US was tracking the development following the announcement of the caretaker government to establish its side of the pipeline for gas from Iran.

“I don’t see from where the financing will come. We have not heard from Pakistan about the waiver of any sanctions. We want to have questions with Pakistan about where they can find other non-Iranian gas. Pakistan is interested in clean energy.”

But he also added that the administration was in contact with the government about the project.

May 9 protesters, Dr Shakil Afridi, Aafia Siddiqui

Representative Brad Sherman questioned Lu about “hundreds of” American citizens who he said were placed on the Exit Control List and could not leave Pakistan. He asked Lu what the US was doing to get them out when they were not even charged with crimes.

The diplomat replied that there were laws in place but the US was pursuing the matter. Sherman cut him off, saying: “We allow top generals in Pakistan to visit the US when American citizens can’t leave Pakistan and come to the US. We then have the vote tabulation system and they banned the ‘bat’, the symbol of the PTI, and they banned the batsman [Imran Khan]. There have been flaws in the Pakistani elections but this is perhaps the greatest flaw.”

Pakistan’s ambassadors chalked up the matter as the “ordinary working of the Pakistani judicial system,” he said and asked Lu if the US had faith that the PTI founder “has not been the victim of selective prosecution or is it apparent that he has been?”

Lu replied that the US had raised its concerns about the mass detentions, including of PTI members, after the May 9 riots and the use of military courts.

Also, read this

Cipher case: A complete timeline

Imran Khan not mincing words on army leadership

Will the long march be stopped? Army and ISI provide a clue

But again Sherman interrupted him by saying: “There is one thing you need to do. The US ambassador needs to visit Imran Khan in prison and make sure that he lives to tell the tale of how he was wrongfully imprisoned through selective prosecution.”

He also asked him about any prisoner swap deal with Pakistan, by freeing Dr Aafia Siddiqui in exchange of incarcerated Dr Shakil Afridi who helped the American CIA in tracing the Al-Qaeda chief.

‘Military’s involvement in Pakistan’s politics’

When US Representative Tim Burchett asked about providing insight into the involvement of the military in Pakistan, Lu said: “Pakistan’s military is the sixth largest in the world—the largest of any Muslim-majority country. The US military has historically had very close relations with the Pakistani military. Our generals and their generals have trained together decade after decade. It is an important part of Pakistani culture. I have lived in Pakistan. I have seen that for myself. The Pakistani military is an important institution.”

He added: “We respect in this administration and all past American administrations the constitutional principle that Pakistani military must be kept under civilian control.”

Lu said it must be answerable to the president who is the commander-in-chief and responsible for civilian control, but the representative countered him by saying: “It isn’t.”

Burchett suggested that a strong letter was not enough and advised the US should use its economic might to correct some of its wrongs.

He denied that the US asked for Khan’s removal after the former prime minister’s trip to Russia.

“I was absolutely not involved nor were any Americans were involved in that process,” he said in reply to allegations of being involved in regime change.

He also denied allegations that the aid to Pakistan was held as the country abstained from voting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the UN General Assembly.

For the latest news, follow us on Twitter @Aaj_Urdu. We are also on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.


imran khan

general elections

donald lu

election 2024

US Assistant Secretary of State