US stopped communication with Pakistani counterparts after cipher leak: Pak diplomat

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US officials have halted communication as well as candid discussions with their Pakistani counterparts after the cipher case involving former prime minister Imran Khan became a sensitive issue in bilateral ties, a media report said on Thursday quoting a senior Pakistani diplomat as saying.

“The revelation about the US officials’ communications halt was made by Faisal Tirmizi, who was the additional secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dealing with US-related matters,” Geo News reported.

Tirmizi provided the details to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as it conducted interviews of relevant officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister’s Office to probe the cipher case, the report said.

During a public rally in March 2022, former prime minister Khan brandished a piece of paper, termed it as a copy of the cipher in his speech, and claimed that the US wanted to oust him from power.

A case was registered against him on August 18 this year under the Official Secrets Act 1923.

“The US had halted communications with us. The US asked Pakistan in writing to share the purported cipher being shown by the then PM,” Geo News quoted Tirmizi, now serving as the Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as saying.

The US officials told Pakistani counterparts that they would not hold candid discussions with them if secret conversations were made part of the public discourse, the diplomat said and added, “The Foreign Office then issued an advisory to Khan and Qureshi, telling them about the repercussions of using diplomatic cables for political gains.” Khan had named senior US diplomat Donald Lu as the person who was allegedly involved in the “foreign conspiracy” to topple his government through a no-confidence vote tabled by the Opposition.

The US state department has repeatedly dismissed Khan’s allegations.

Khan, a 71-year-old cricketer-turned-politician and his close aide Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the 67-year-old former foreign minister, have been named as the principal accused in and charged with the violation of the Official Secrets Act in connection with the leakage of a confidential diplomatic cable from Pakistan’s embassy in Washington. Both the leaders are in jail.

Incidentally, a bureaucrat from Khan’s time as the prime minister said that the former premier’s aim “was to get political benefits from the cipher.” The FIA officials interviewed Khan’s principal secretary, Azam Khan, who said that the former prime minister wanted the military’s help to foil the no-confidence bid against him.

“The former principal secretary said Imran called a meeting on March 28 (a day after showing the letter) and asked the then-foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood to read the contents of the cipher. I think he (Imran) wanted to pressurise the military’s top leadership. The former prime minister wanted the military to help him foil the no-confidence bid,” Geo News quoted Azam Khan as telling the FIA.

Claiming that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman “compromised Pakistan’s interest through his political move,” the former principal secretary said, “I think this action led to a doubt in the minds of the army’s ranks against its senior leadership. The former prime minister’s aim was to get political benefits from the cipher.” 


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