Tuesday May 28, 2024

Donald Lu rubbishes Imran’s cipher allegation as ‘a lie’

Donald Lu revealed that he and his family received death threats following the launch of the cipher controversy in Pakistan

By Wajid Ali Syed
March 21, 2024
US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu is seen speaking during a hearing held by the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the US House of Representatives in US in March 20, 2024. —  US Capitol
US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu is seen speaking during a hearing held by the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the US House of Representatives in US in March 20, 2024. —  US Capitol

WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the allegations of involvement in removing the PTI government, US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu Wednesday revealed that he and his family received death threats following the launch of the cipher controversy in Pakistan.

“One of the things that I have faced over these last two years is that some of these allegations, unfounded allegations, have resulted in regular death threats against me, against my family, involvement of local police. There’s a line of acceptability and I do think, at times, some of the free speech has verged into threats of violence which is not acceptable in our society,” Lu told congressional panel.

Click here to read the complete transcript of Donald Lu's testimony. 

PTI’s former chairman Imran Khan had accused the US government and particularly named the assistant secretary for conspiring to topple his government. This was the first time since Lu appeared before a Congressional panel as a witness and spoke publicly about the issue.

The House Foreign Affairs subcommittee held a hearing on “Pakistan after the elections: Examining the future of Democracy in Pakistan and the US-Pakistan relationship.”

The assistant secretary was inquired by the committee chair, Rep. Joe Wilson, that “there have been unsubstantiated allegations that the US government has conspired to remove prime minister Imran Khan from power. What’s your assessment of these untrue speculations?”

The complete transcript of Donald Lu's testimony

“These allegations, this conspiracy theory, is a lie. It’s a complete falsehood. I have reviewed the press reporting related to this, what’s called the cipher in Pakistan, the alleged leak of diplomatic cable from the embassy here, it is not accurate. At no point does it accuse the United States government, or me personally of taking steps against Imran Khan.” He further stated that the other person in the meeting, the then ambassador of Pakistan to the United States had testified to his own government that there was no conspiracy.

“We respect the sovereignty of Pakistan. We respect the principle that Pakistani people should be the only ones choosing their own leaders through democratic process,” he said.

His response triggered heckling and shouting from the PTI supporters present at the public hearing. The chair then ordered the police to expel the protesters.

Responding to another set of questions, Lu explained that no US official was ever involved in any conspiracy against Imran Khan.

“Not even a contractor?” one of the members of the committee asked. “No, not even a contractor,” he replied.

To another question about the so-called “regime change” in Pakistan, Lu outrightly denied any involvement. “I was absolutely not involved, nor was any American involved with that process,” he said. None whatsoever, the congressman asked again. “None whatsoever,” Lu repeated, “none, not one.” He warned that it will be an impediment to the US relationship with Pakistan if the country did not have a democratic process upholding its own constitution.

“It will retard our ability to have the type of relationship we want, in security matters, on business front and people to people, all that suffers if Pakistan is not a full democracy,” Lu said.

Almost all members of the committee questioned the legitimacy and transparency of the Pakistani elections held last month. Almost all of them also demanded a full investigation into the reports of alleged electoral irregularities, fraud and rigging.

The assistant secretary told the congressional panel that even though the general elections in Pakistan were competitive and orderly, the State Department had never used the term “free and fair” in characterizing this election. He maintained that it was up to the process of the Election Commission of Pakistan to probe electoral irregularities.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan has formed a high level committee which is now sifting through thousands of petitions from people across Pakistan who complained about the very same things that we have noted in our statement,” he told the panel.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan, in past elections, has re-run elections where there have been findings of electoral abuse. We have seen that over and over. In fact, in this election they have already ordered the re-run of elections where there has been violence,” he said adding, “We call on the Election Commission to fulfil its constitutional role in Pakistan to be the watchdog over these elections and to act in a non-partisan way. We all will be watching this process very very closely.”

Responding to questions about the future of Pakistan-US relations, the assistant secretary maintained that Pakistan was an important partner and a major non-Nato ally.

“We have deep national security interests with Pakistan, not 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 resettling Afghan refugees to whom we owe a debt. And we are grateful to the people and government of Pakistan for that cooperation,” he said.

Congressman Brad Sherman said during the hearing, “They banned the bat, the symbol of the PTI, then they banned the batsman.” To Sherman’s query that if the state department has faith that Imran Khan has not been the victim of selective prosecution or is it apparent that he has been, Lu responded that the US has raised concerns about the mass detention after May 9 rioting and even the use of military courts.

Congressman Sherman interrupted Lu and suggested the US ambassador in Pakistan “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.”

In a related development, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ataullah Tarar said the Congressional hearing had again proved that the cipher conspiracy of PTI was a lie and complete falsehood.

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, he said the false narrative of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf founder chairman Imran Khan about the cipher had distorted Pakistan’s relations at the international level, says a press release.

The minister said the Congressional hearing had also proved the PTI chairman as a certified liar, who misled the entire nation and the youth by constantly speaking lies.

He said the false narrative of PTI founding chairman was also exposed in the hearing, which was even arranged by the PTI after hiring lobbying firms in the United States.

Tarar said the PTI, under a well-hatched conspiracy put the interests of the state at stake just to promote its political narrative adding that a single person prioritized his personal interests over the state interests.

He said it had rarely happened in the history of Pakistan that a political leader compromised national interests just for his personal gains.

The minister said the PTI was doing politics of double standard. He said Donald Lu had also mentioned that 5,000 independent observers had monitored the elections process.