Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Monday that PTI chairman Imran Khan’s rebuttal of the foreign conspiracy narrative was a reminder of the “vicious role he played to harm Pakistan’s external relations while pursuing his own petty politics”.
In an interview with British newspaper Financial Times, Imran — who has repeatedly claimed that a US-backed conspiracy was behind his ouster in April — said he no longer “blamed” the US administration for his removal from power.
The PTI chief also said he wanted a “dignified” relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
“As far as I’m concerned it is over, it’s behind me,” the newspaper quoted Imran as saying.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, in a series of tweets, said that the former premier will have to provide an answer for the apparent change in his narrative.
She addressed Imran and said that putting the matter behind him would not suffice.
“You will have to give an answer for the narrative on the basis of which lies and chaos were spread in the country,” she said, adding that withdrawing the claims without giving an explanation would not be enough.
“Today is a question mark for all those who believed what Imran said.”
Lambasting Imran for “playing with national interest”, the information czar said the former PM cannot get rid of all the accusations by saying “it’s behind me”.
“After destroying the country with his lies, Imran is now telling everyone to forget the US conspiracy narrative,” she said.
“Does Imran think his supporters are sheep and goats?”
The PML-N minister said the PTI chief is backtracking from his narrative of US conspiracy, imported government and the regime change operation because it never existed in the first place.
“Today, Imran Khan has given up on his narrative of imported government and regime change,” Marriyum added, saying that the real face of the party’s so-called Haqeeqi Azaadi had been “completely exposed”.
The information minister accused Imran of putting the country’s foreign relations in grave danger for the sake of power.
“Imran played a dirty game with national interests in his lust for power. He pulled off tricks and put the country and its people at stake. After teaching lies to the nation, Imran now says that the US conspiracy is over.”
She questioned how Imran could tell everyone to leave the US conspiracy narrative behind when he had kept appealing to the Supreme Court to take notice of it.
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman also termed Imran’s recent claims as the “mother of all U-turns”.
Separately, addressing the parliament later in the day, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said Imran should not be allowed to go scot-free after the series of allegations levelled against the “imported” government for coming into power through a “US conspiracy” and a “regime change operation.”
“The parliament should hold him accountable,” he demanded, adding that the incumbent government was labelled negatively by the former premier.
The PML-N leader also maintained that the PTI chief’s allegations brought disrespect to the House and the country.
Imran says propaganda cell ‘feeding journalists’
Meanwhile, in an address via video link later in the day, Imran claimed that a “propaganda cell” in Pakistan was “feeding journalists” against him.
“They [the journalists] are told to pick and choose things from my interview and then turn it against me,” the former premier claimed, lamenting that the propaganda cell was trying to misconstrue his words.
He also said that the propaganda had reached the extent where two journalists had to clarify that their work was being “presented in an incorrect way”.
Backing up his remarks in the interview with Financial Times, Imran insisted that throughout his 26 years in politics, he had been persistent about maintaining good relations with all the countries but accepting slavery of none.
“And I have always said this. Look at my interviews over the years […] we want good relations with Russia, China, and even US,” the PTI chairman reiterated.
Referring to the cypher, he said that it was shown to President Alvi, the National Security Council, the cabinet, and even the Chief Justice of Pakistan. “Asad Majeed — the ambassador who had talked to Donald Lu — had said during the NSC meeting that Donald Lu had threatened him.
“There is no doubt there. The NSC that had sat during Shehbaz Sharif’s tenure had said the same,” he added.
Imran clarified that when he said he wanted to move forward, he was talking about better relations. “The better the relations, the more we will progress.”
Following his ouster through a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly, Imran had dismissed the Shehbaz government, terming it “imported”.
The former PM said that the no-confidence move against him was part of a foreign conspiracy, claiming that the cable received from the ambassador on March 7, a day before the opposition officially filed the no-trust move against him, was evidence of the conspiracy.
Imran claimed that the cable showed Pakistan was threatened by a US diplomat who said the country would have to face consequences if he was not removed via the no-trust motion, which had not even been filed at the time.
It was on the basis of this cable that former National Assembly deputy speaker Qasim Suri saw as evidence of a conspiracy to oust Imran and ruled to dismiss the no-trust move against the then premier on April 3, terming the motion contradictory to Article 5 of the Constitution, which mandates loyalty to the state for all citizens.
Suri’s ruling was subsequently voided by the Supreme Court and voting on the no-trust resolution finally took place on April 10, as a result of which Imran was removed as prime minister.
The issue was also raised at two separate meetings of the National Security Committee. In the second meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the NSC had explicitly stated there was no foreign conspiracy to topple Imran’s government.
Despite this, Imran has persisted in blaming a foreign conspiracy for his government’s ouster and also has also spearheaded two long marches aimed at calling early elections in the country, one of which is currently underway.