ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee (NSC) of the Cabinet, which met here on Thursday with Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif in the chair, reaffirmed that the language used by the foreign official in the letter was undiplomatic and blatant interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, but a thorough review of the communication received from the-then Pakistan ambassador in the United States, helped reach the conclusion that there was no foreign conspiracy.
"The NSC, after examining the contents of the communication, reaffirmed the decision of the last NSC meeting. The NSC was again informed by the premier security agencies that they have completed investigation and found no evidence of any conspiracy."
The statement issued by the PM's Office said the telegram received from the Pakistan Embassy in Washington was discussed in detail. Former Pakistani ambassador to Washington Dr Asad Majeed Khan briefed the meeting about the content and context of his diplomatic cable that carried the alleged threat sent to the PTI government last month by a US official.
The meeting was attended by federal ministers Khwaja Muhammad Asif, Rana Sanaullah, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of State on Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar,Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Nadeem Raza, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahamd Babar and senior civil and military officials.
The NSC discussed the telegram received from the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. The former Pakistan ambassador to the US briefed the committee on the context and content of his telegram. The NSC, after examining the contents of the communication, reaffirmed the decisions of the last NSC meeting.
The NSC was again informed by the premier security agencies that they have found no evidence of any conspiracy. The last meeting of the NSC held on March 31 and chaired by the-then prime minister Imran Khan, had expressed grave concerns at the communication and termed the language used by the foreign diplomat undiplomatic. The minutes of the last meeting, as reaffirmed by the Friday’s meeting, had stated that the language used by the foreign official amounted to blatant interference in internal affairs of Pakistan by the country in question.
The last meeting of the NSC, while terming the interference as unacceptable under any circumstances, also decided that Pakistan would issue strong demarches to the country in question, both in Islamabad and in the country’s capital, through proper channel in keeping with diplomatic norms.
The spokesman for Pakistan Army, Major General Babar Iftikhar, while responding to a query at a media briefing earlier this month, also denied use of word 'conspiracy' in minutes of the NSC meeting held on March 31. However, he said the language used was undiplomatic, which amounted to blatant interference in Pakistan's internal affairs.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, at a press conference, told reporters that the prime minister had directed the government officials not to discuss the issue any further. He also said he saw the letter sent by the former Pakistan ambassador Dr. Asad Majeed, and no one’s name was written on it, which rejected Imran Khan’s claims that his name was included in it. Sana said no-confidence move against Imran was not mentioned in the telegram.
On the other hand, Minister of State on Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, asked why the PTI government did not issue immediate demarches to Washington on learning 'self perceived conspiracy' to oust their government. Talking to Aj Shahezeb Khanzada Kay Sath host Shahzeb Khanzada, the MoS for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar said it was shocking to learn that "Pakistan’s ambassador had recommended to Islamabad to issue simultaneous demarches to the US to find out if the diplomat's remarks were his personal position or that of the US government," but the former "foreign minister explicitly instructed the Foreign Office not to do so."
Khar said Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed, had recommended in his cable to Islamabad to issue simultaneous demarches to US ambassador in Pakistan and in Washington to seek if the remarks made by the US diplomat in the luncheon meeting were reflective of his personal position or that of the US government. She said if the situation was so serious that it tantamount to a conspiracy to remove an elected government, the PTI government needed to have swiftly asked the US to clarify its position. However, the demarches were not instantaneously issued on the specific instructions of the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
To another question if the former foreign minister Qureshi was not informed or kept in the dark about the diplomatic cable, Khar said “he was instantly informed, but chose not to react spontaneously.”
Khar said diplomats regularly use strong or harsh statements to convey their positions, like we do against the Hindutva government of PM Modi, which may be described as an interference, but calling them “conspiracy is way beyond reality." We also understand through history that governments are not removed through diplomatic communications, the MoS said. By politicisng the issue, the former prime minister has raised questions about the credibility of the Foreign Office and security institutions, which will have serious repercussions for Pakistan in major world capitals, she added.
Earlier, Ahsan Iqbal said if the issue of diplomatic communication was so serious as the PTI claims it to be, why the US diplomat Donald Lu was invited as the keynote speaker to the Pak Embassy function immediately after the incident.
In response to the press queries regarding Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan’s remarks at the meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), the FO spokesperson made clear that the ambassador had briefed the NSC about the context and content of the cypher telegram in question, and shared his professional assessment. His briefing and assessment are accurately reflected in the statement issued at the conclusion of the NSC meeting.Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Friday claimed that the statement issued after the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting was a confirmation of the position of the-then prime minister and party chairman Imran Khan on the conspiracy and 'threat letter'.
The PTI said that the NSC, presided over by the-then prime minister Imran Khan, had taken the same position with reference to the 'secret letter' sent to the Foreign Office by Pakistan's ambassador to the United States and its contents, according to PTI Central Media Department. The PTI demanded that the matter be conducted through the most empowered judicial commission for immediate high-level investigation and keeping the facts before the nation while keeping the court proceedings fully open.
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, "There was nothing new in today's meeting of the National Security Committee." He added that once again "our position was reaffirmed that not only the letter and its contents were correct but also the issuance of protest letter by the PTI government on the issue in the light of the decision of the National Security Committee was the right decision."
He expressed these views while talking to the media in Lahore. He said that after the meeting of the National Security Committee, a judicial commission should be entrusted with the task of investigation. Investigate the aspects in open court and check that:
1- Is it not a fact that the said document contains the message of the representative of the state of Pakistan in another country, which contains the details of a formal meeting?
2- Isn't it a fact that the no-confidence motion was mentioned in the meeting and Pakistan's apology was specifically mentioned as a condition for the removal of Imran Khan?
3- Didn't the NSC consider it as interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and in the light of the advice of the aforesaid ambassador decided not to send protest letter (demarche) to the said country?
4. Didn't the NSC consider it so important that it should be discussed in the National Security Committee of the Parliament?
5- In order to determine the truth and reality of the above points, an investigation should be carried out and in the light of the letter, the real nexus between the threat made in the said meeting and the local characters should be traced.
6- For this purpose, the details of the meetings between the diplomats of a particular country, especially between the leaders of the opposition (current ruling party) and the deviant members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will have to be investigated and linked.
7. Researchers will give their opinion after examining the views of each of the participants in the NSC meeting.
He said if a judicial commission is formed, then many questions will be answered and the commission will be able to investigate whether there was conspiracy or interference. He said former speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser had already sent the letter to chief justice of Pakistan.
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