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The ouster of Imran Khan: How much involvement did the US have in Pakistan’s coup?

Imran Khan joins the long list of deposed prime ministers and underscores the reality that, in Pakistan, whoever the people elect, the U.S.-backed military is always in charge.

by Alan Macleod 

Part 1

Following weeks of high drama and controversy that have racked the nation, Imran Khan has been removed from office. The Pakistani prime minister suffered a vote of no confidence and a loss in the supreme court, ending his rule after less than four years. Coalition partners abandoned him, leaving his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the minority.

The cricket-star-turned-political-leader had been warning for some weeks that a foreign power – assumed to be the United States – was seeking to overthrow him because of his independent foreign policy, which saw Pakistan grow closer to Russia and China. Then, in a long public address on April 8, he directly named Washington as a prime instigator in the regime-change conspiracy, accusing the U.S. of bribing his political allies with tens of millions of dollars to desert his coalition. He described the practice as “open horse trading” and the “selling of lawmakers like goats and sheep.

Khan singled out Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu as the mastermind of the operation. “It was an official meeting between Donald Lu and our ambassador, with notetakers,” he said, sharing a diplomatic cable from Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Asad Majeed, in which he claimed Lu had essentially threatened his country with a coup if it did not immediately change course. In contrast, if Khan were deposed, “all will be forgiven” and Pakistan could return to its status as a favored U.S. ally. Khan then invited several journalists, members of his cabinet, and security agents to view the document. However, the Islamabad High Court immediately blocked the public dissemination of the cable on the grounds that Khan would be breaking his secrecy oath.

The ousted prime minister has not quietly accepted his fate. On the contrary, he is organizing a series of street demonstrations that have drawn huge crowds. “I want all our people to come, as Pakistan was created as an independent, sovereign state, not as a puppet state of foreign powers,” he said of a rally in the northwestern city of Peshawar, his first appearance after, in his own words, “being removed through a foreign-instigated regime change.” Khan and his PTI Party are calling for an immediate electoral showdown, apparently confident in their ability to win. “Let the people decide, through fair and free elections, whom they want as their prime minister,” he demanded.

Many, both inside and outside Pakistan, appear convinced that the United States is behind his downfall. Investigative journalist Ben Norton told MintPress News:

    This is an incredible, blatant act of meddling by the U.S. government. Of course, anyone who knows the basic history of the U.S. knows that it has organized coups and impeachments and color revolutions around the world for many decades, but this was pretty much done in broad daylight!


The United States has categorically denied any involvement. “Let me just say very bluntly there is absolutely no truth to these allegations. Of course, we continue to follow these developments, and we respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and rule of law. But again, these allegations are absolutely not true,” State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter said at a press conference last week.

Others inside Pakistan reject the idea that this was a coup at all. Tooba Syed, an activist and a leader of the Awami Workers Party, said that this was the “first time in Pakistan that a prime minister has been constitutionally removed from his position… It has usually been done by military intervention. It is definitely a good step forward in terms of democracy in Pakistan.

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