Biden administration not meddling in Pakistan’s politics, clarifies US senator

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United States Senator Chris Van Hollen said on Sunday that US President Joe Biden’s administration has no intention of meddling in Pakistan’s internal political matters

Senator Hollen, who claims to maintain longstanding ties with the Biden administration, refuted the allegations of political interference while addressing Pakistani journalists at the annual meeting and gala dinner of the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) chapter of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America.

“I have been in contact with the Biden administration for a long time, and I can confidently say that there was no attempt made to engineer anything related to Pakistani politics,” the senator stated.

The American politician’s statement comes as investigation is underway into Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s claims regarding a diplomatic cipher. Khan had claimed that the cipher contained proof of alleged US involvement in his removal from power in April last year through a no-confidence vote.

Senator Hollen was the guest of honor at the ceremony, which was also attended by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Masood Khan. The event, meanwhile, became a platform for the American politician to address critical issues related to US-Pakistan relations and the role of the Biden administration in Pakistani politics.

He iterated that it is up to the people of Pakistan to decide their leaders and further expressed the need to ensure that the will of the Pakistani people is heard and reflected, advocating for free and fair elections.

Highlighting the global importance of transparent elections, the US senator said: “The US, other democracies, and the people of Pakistan have an interest in ensuring that elections are free and fair.”

Commenting on bilateral relations between the two countries, the senator affirmed the Biden administration’s desire for a strong partnership with Pakistan.

He spoke about the recent assistance provided by the US after the devastating floods in Pakistan as an example of the American government’s commitment towards the calamity-stricken nation.

He also praised the US’s role in supporting Pakistan to secure the $3 billion International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bailout package.

The senator underlined the significance of maintaining good relations with Pakistan, stressing that such relations were essential for global stability and security.

What is the ciphergate?

The cipher controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Khan — just days before his ouster after a no-confidence motion against him — brandished a letter, claiming that it was a cipher from a foreign nation, which mentioned that his government should be removed from power.

He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor mention the name of the nation that had sent it. But a few days later, he named the United States and said that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal.

The cipher was about former Pakistan ambassador to the US Asad Majeed’s meeting with Lu.

The former prime minister, claiming that he was reading contents from the cipher, said that “all will be forgiven for Pakistan if Imran Khan is removed from power”.

Then on March 31, the NSC took up the matter and decided to issue a “strong demarche” to the country for its “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan”.

Later, after his removal, then prime minister Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cipher.

The cipher case against the former premier became serious after his principal secretary Azam Khan stated before a magistrate as well as the FIA that the former PM had used the US cipher for his ‘political gains’ and to avert a vote of no-confidence against him.

The former bureaucrat, in his confession, said when he provided the ex-premier with the cipher, he was “euphoric” and termed the language a “US blunder”. The former prime minister, according to Azam, then said that the cable could be used for “creating a narrative against establishment and opposition”.

Azam said the US cipher was used in political gatherings by the PTI chairman, despite his advice to him to avoid such acts. He mentioned that the former prime minister also told him that the cipher could be used to divert the public’s attention towards “foreign involvement” in the opposition’s no-confidence motion.

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