US asked Pakistan not to proceed with Imran Khan's visit to Russia: Qureshi

Khan met President Putin at the Kremlin on February 24, hours after Russia launched its 'special military operation' against Ukraine.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (File Photo | AP)
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (File Photo | AP)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday told Parliament that the US national security adviser telephoned his Pakistani counterpart and "categorically asked us not to proceed with the Russia tour" of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in February.

In a lengthy address to the National Assembly, ahead of a vote on a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Khan, Qureshi talked major foreign policy issues, especially the alleged regime change being plotted by the US in Pakistan.

"Today Pakistan is standing at a historic juncture and the people need to decide whether they want to live in an independent state or become slaves [to the West]," the 65-year-old politician said, acknowledging that today might be his last day as the foreign minister of Pakistan.

"As the foreign minister of Pakistan, I want to bring this to record that when the decision to visit Moscow was taken after due deliberation because of Pakistan's better future and was taken months before the Ukraine situation emerged," he said, referring to the controversy generated by Prime Minister Khan's maiden visit to Russia for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

Khan met President Putin at the Kremlin on February 24, hours after Russia launched its 'special military operation' against Ukraine.

Qureshi, vice-chairman of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, said: "Before we [the government] leave, I want to bring this to your knowledge that the national security adviser of the United States called our national security adviser and categorically asked us not to proceed with the Russia tour."

"Where in the world does any sovereign state gets direction from other countries and which independent country accepts such directions?" he questioned.

"Pakistan officials thought that during the visit (to Moscow), the delegation would advocate dialogue and diplomacy because Pakistan is not in favour of any aggression," the foreign minister was quoted as saying by the Pakistani media.

"Pakistan is a country that believes in international law, respects the UN charter, believes in self-determination, and has never supported the use of weapons and force," Qureshi said, adding that when the US national security adviser (Jake Sullivan) asked his Pakistani counterpart (Moeed Yusuf) to avoid the trip "we conveyed this message to them as well."

Highlighting the seriousness of the "threat letter" controversy, Qureshi said: "When the National Security Committee, one of the highest security forums, saw the cypher, a coded message from the Pakistani ambassador in the US, they acknowledged that the matter is sensitive."

He recalled that when the Speaker summoned a session of the National Security Council, the Opposition leaders decided not to attend the meeting.

Dismissing the allegations levelled by the Opposition leaders that the "threat letter" was "fake" and had been "forged", he said that this is an authentic "non-circulation" document sent by an officer and a seasoned Pakistani diplomat posted in Washington.

"If the Opposition leaders still hold questions regarding the 'threat letter', I want to make a proposal on the floor of the House, lets go into an in-camera session and let the ambassador of Pakistan in Washington come in the House and brief the members of the Parliament whether he stands by what he said or not," Qureshi asserted.

Repeating Khan's remarks from Friday night's address to the nation, he reiterated that the US State Department official (Donald Lu) had warned the Pakistani ambassador that if Imran Khan manages to save himself from the no-confidence motion, then Pakistan will have to face "severe consequences."

"If this is not a threat then what is?" he asked.

The US State Department has repeatedly denied Khan's allegations.

Responding to a question on Khan's renewed allegations of the US encouraging the no-confidence vote against his government, deputy state department spokesperson Jalina Porter in a press conference on Friday said, "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," she said.

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