Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said Friday that his government had formally protested to the United States for allegedly backing his opponents in a parliamentary no-confidence vote seeking his ouster from power.
“It’s evident now that the conspiracy has been hatched from abroad! Everyone knows it,” Khan told local ARY television.
"We have handed a demarche to the American Embassy, telling them that you have interfered in [the no-confidence vote],” the prime minister said in a reference to the diplomatic note delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
When asked if the embassy had received the demarche, a State Department spokesperson told VOA that, “as a standard practice, we don’t comment on diplomatic correspondence.”
“In terms of U.S. involvement in Pakistan’s internal affairs, there is no truth to these allegations,” the spokesperson said.
The diplomatic note was issued hours after Khan stated in a nationally televised address that a foreign country was conspiring to punish him for his "independent foreign policy” and for paying an official visit to President Vladimir Putin on the day the Russian leader ordered his forces to invade Ukraine.
In what appeared to be a slip of tongue during the live telecast, the Pakistani leader named the U.S. as the origin of a “memo” that he believes confirmed a “foreign conspiracy” was behind the no-confidence vote due on Sunday.
“They say they are angry with Pakistan. ... They say they will forgive Pakistan if Imran Khan loses a no-trust motion. But if the vote fails, Pakistan will have to face serious consequences,” Khan said, citing the text of the memo, which he has not made public.
Officials said Islamabad’s ambassador in Washington relayed the “message" back to Islamabad after meeting with senior State Department officials on March 7.
Khan said the Pakistani ambassador was summoned to the State Department a day before the opposition submitted the no-confidence motion against him on March 8.
While responding to the allegations on Thursday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said there was "no truth to them.”
“We are closely following developments in Pakistan. We respect [and] we support Pakistan's constitutional process and the rule of law," Price told reporters in Washington.
The no-confidence vote against Khan is the most serious political challenge to his leadership since he came to power in 2018 as the head of a coalition government with a thin majority in parliament.
Since that time, some two dozen lawmakers from Khan’s ruling party have defected, and key coalition partners have abandoned the government to join the opposition in the run-up to the vote.
The departures have left Khan short of the 172 votes he needs to survive the no-confidence motion in the 342-member National Assembly, or lower house of parliament.