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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 2 - Beggars can’t be choosers

Despite the official denials, there is some evidence that the United States may have played a role in the proceedings. First Lu, the man at the center of the affair, has kept relatively silent. But when Indian newspaper The Hindustan Times directly asked him to confirm or deny the cable’s authenticity, giving him an opportunity to wash his hands of responsibility, Lu responded simply by saying, “We are following developments in Pakistan and we respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law” – an answer that is far from a denial and could be interpreted as giving his blessing to proceedings.

Perhaps even more damning were remarks made by new Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Responding to allegations that opposition parties, including his Pakistan Muslim League (N), were acting on behalf of Washington in exchange for better diplomatic and economic ties, Sharif appeared to agree. “Beggars can’t be choosers, please understand,” he said. “We have to feed our nation […] we have to send our children to school; we can’t fight with someone, can’t raise slogans against others,” he added.

For its part, the U.S. government immediately endorsed Sharif. Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated the new prime minister on his election, thereby firmly placing Washington on one side of this political battle.

Also of note has been the reaction of anti-Khan diplomats within Pakistan’s foreign services. Speaking on condition of anonymity to Dawn, an English-language newspaper founded by the Pakistan Muslim League, a host of diplomats harshly criticized Khan for having “skewered the principle of secure and confidential communications.” “The consequences of this ‘cablegate’ will go well beyond what is being discussed now, as it could hurt sensitive relationships and make open exchanges more difficult,” said one diplomat. Another foreign-service official lamented that, in the past, “we did not pull foreign policy controversies into domestic politics.” However, it seemed, those days were gone.

Yet none of them challenged the veracity of Khan’s cable. Therefore, the objection from oppositional figures inside the government appears to be that Khan was breaking protocol and publicizing secret information, rather than the information being false.

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