PM Imran Khan lashes out at US, claiming Washington has conspired with opposition parties against him and that America wants "me, personally, gone ... and everything would be forgiven."

Imran Khan raised Western ire by visiting Moscow the day Russian forces entered Ukraine, but he has defended the trip.
Imran Khan raised Western ire by visiting Moscow the day Russian forces entered Ukraine, but he has defended the trip. (AA Archive)

Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused the United States of meddling in Pakistan's politics –– a claim quickly denied by Washington –– as a debate on a no-confidence motion against him in parliament was postponed.

Fighting for his political life, Khan addressed the nation late on Thursday, appearing to blunder when he named the United States as the origin of a "message" he said showed meddling in Pakistan's affairs.

"America has - oh, not America but a foreign country I can't name. I mean from a foreign country, we received a message," he said.

Local media have reported the message was in a briefing letter from Pakistan's former ambassador to Washington, recording a senior US official telling him they felt relations would be better if Khan left office.

"They say that 'our anger will vanish if Imran Khan loses this no-confidence vote'," he said. 

In his speech, Khan lashed out at the United States, claiming Washington had conspired with the Pakistani opposition against him and that America wants "me, personally, gone ... and everything would be forgiven."

He claimed that Washington opposed his relentless criticism of the US war on terror — "and not a single Pakistani was involved in the 9/11 attacks" — as well as drone attacks in Pakistan and his refusal to agree to allow Pakistan to be used for "over-the-horizon" US missions against terror targets in what is now a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

US denies charges 

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters there was "no truth" to the allegations.

"We are closely following developments in Pakistan. We respect (and) we support Pakistan's constitutional process and the rule of law," Price said.

Khan first raised the issue on Sunday – citing an unnamed "foreign power" – at a huge rally of his supporters in the capital, Islamabad, capping weeks of political turmoil since the opposition raised the idea of a no-confidence vote. 

Khan spoke off-the-cuff for around 45 minutes, touching on several favourite topics including his efforts to get Islamophobia recognised as a global threat, and charting an independent path for Pakistan on the world stage. 

Khan raised Western ire by visiting Moscow the day Russian forces entered Ukraine, but he defended the trip, saying: "Even European leaders went to Russia, but Pakistan, in particular, is asked 'why did you go' as if we are their servants."

Still, Khan has denounced the offensive and called Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week in support. The two reportedly spoke for 40 minutes.

READ MORE: Pakistan PM alleges 'foreign' plot against him at Islamabad rally

Debate postponed

Debate on the no-confidence motion was due to start on Thursday, but the deputy speaker – from Khan's party – suspended proceedings when legislators declined to first address other items on the agenda.

"The deputy speaker has once again dishonoured the parliamentary norms by not allowing the agenda item for a debate," opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif, tipped to replace Khan if he goes, told reporters.

Parliament will sit again on Sunday morning.

The opposition is headed by the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) –– two usually feuding dynastic groups that dominated national politics for decades until Khan forged a coalition against them.

Foreign-policy

His opponents are accusing him of economic mismanagement and foreign-policy bungling.

The government is also battling to contain a rise in militancy by the Pakistan Taliban, which on Wednesday announced an offensive against security forces during Ramadan, due to begin within days with the sighting of the next new moon.

Khan, however, says he steered the country out of raging coronavirus, overhauled the economy, raised the Kashmir dispute effectively at all international forums, and helped stablise neighbouring Afghanistan. He has long campaigned against growing anti-Muslim sentiment and takes credit for the UN's recent move to adopt an International Day to Combat Islamophobia. 

Khan is credited with building the country's foreign reserves, now over $18 billion. Remittances from Pakistanis living overseas were a whopping $29 billion in 2021, despite the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

His reputation for fighting corruption has encouraged Pakistanis to send money home and he has also cracked down on the unofficial money transfer system, known as Hawala.

His handling of the coronavirus pandemic brought him international praise. His implementation of so-called "smart" lockdowns that targeted heavily infected areas — rather than a nationwide shutdown — kept some of the country's key industries such as construction afloat.

There have been four military coups –– and at least as many unsuccessful ones –– since independence in 1947, and the country has spent more than three decades under army rule.

No Pakistan premier has ever seen out a full term, and Khan is facing the biggest challenge to his rule since being elected in 2018.

When he came to power, he promised to rid Pakistan of corruption even as he partnered with some of the country’s tainted old guard. He called them "electables" — necessary to win elections because their wealth and vast land holdings guaranteed votes in large swaths of the country.

Khan, a former international cricket star who in 1992 captained Pakistan to their only World Cup win, insisted he would never resign.

"I fight till the very last ball. I never quit whatever the result may be," he said.

"I will come back with more power, whatever the result is."

READ MORE: Ally ditches Pakistan PM Imran Khan ahead of make-or-break parliament vote

Source: TRTWorld and agencies