Analyzing the newly leaked Pakistani cable from March 2022 regarding US pressure over Russia
by Andrew Korybko on 21 Aug 2023 0 Comment

The nearly quarter billion people who live in Pakistan are suffering due to a handful of corrupt military and political figures dutifully complying with the dog whistle blown by a leading US diplomat ordering them to depose their patriotic multipolar premier or risk losing perks from the West. None of this would have happened had former Chief Of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa not betrayed his oath, and it’ll be a tremendous struggle for the country to recover from his treachery, if ever.


background briefing


Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (IK) claimed that his Ambassador to the US’ cable from March 2022 proved that Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu signalled American approval for removing him through superficially “democratic” means. This multipolar patriot was then ousted a little over one month later through a vote of no confidence that was initiated one day after those two aforementioned diplomats met and replaced by a pro-US regime.


Speculation swirled since then about what exactly the cable said and whether it did indeed prove that Washington had a hand in Pakistan’s latest regime change like its former leader alleged. The Intercept finally obtained a copy of it from a source that they described as a disillusioned member of the military who wanted their compatriots and comrades to finally know the truth after all the regime’s gaslighting. According to them, their views reflect the rank and files’, who are unhappy with the past year’s events.


The Military’s plummeting morale


If that’s true, then it doesn’t mean that a multipolar-patriotic military coup is on the cards since Pakistan’s armed forces are disciplined and thus won’t act against the top brass, but it would still be significant if their morale has really plunged as a result of their institution’s “involvement in the political fight against Khan, the exploitation of the memory of dead service members for political purposes in recent military propaganda, and widespread public disenchantment with the armed forces amid the crackdown.”


This appears to be an accurate assessment due to the high regard that the armed forces have historically been held in Pakistani society as well as their self-awareness of this. The wanton human rights abuses that their institution was ordered to carry out against civil society since the pro-US regime’s imposition in April 2022 completely discredited them. It therefore makes sense that someone within the military finally leaked the cable to The Intercept, which became famous for publishing Snowden’s leaks.


NSC concerns & anger at the IK-Putin meeting


About that document, it begins with the Ambassador informing Islamabad that “At the outset, Don referred to Pakistan’s position on the Ukraine crisis and said that ‘people here and in Europe are quite concerned about why Pakistan is taking such an aggressively neutral position (on Ukraine), if such a position is even possible. It does not seem such a neutral stand to us.’ He also shared the National Security Council’s (NSC) opinion that “it seems quite clear that this is the Prime Minister’s policy.”


The Ambassador then wrote that Lu claimed that IK’s position towards this conflict is “tied to the current political dramas in Islamabad that he (Prime Minister) needs and is trying to show a public face.” After Pakistan’s top representative in the US corrected this false perception, he then “asked Don if the reason for a strong U.S. reaction was Pakistan’s abstention in the voting in the UNGA. He categorically replied in the negative and said that it was due to the Prime Minister’s visit to Moscow.”


The carrot of “forgiveness” & the stick of “isolation”


“He said that ‘I think if the no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister succeeds, all will be forgiven in Washington because the Russia visit is being looked at as a decision by the Prime Minister. Otherwise, I think it will be tough going ahead.’ He paused and then said ‘I cannot tell how this will be seen by Europe but I suspect their reaction will be similar.’ He then said that ‘honestly I think isolation of the Prime Minister will become very strong from Europe and the United States.’”


US opposition to Russian-Pakistani economic ties


The Ambassador told Lu that “The visit to Moscow had been in the works for at least few years and was the result of a deliberative institutional process. I stressed that when the Prime Minister was flying to Moscow, Russian invasion of Ukraine had not started and there was still hope for a peaceful resolution. I also pointed out that leaders of European countries were also travelling to Moscow around the same time.”


“Don interjected that ‘those visits were specifically for seeking resolution of the Ukraine standoff while the Prime Minister’s visit was for bilateral economic reasons.’ I drew his attention to the fact that the Prime Minister clearly regretted the situation while being in Moscow and had hoped for diplomacy to work. The Prime Minister’s visit, I stressed, was purely in the bilateral context and should not be seen either as a condonation or endorsement of Russia’s action against Ukraine.”


The US’ double standards towards India & Pakistan                    


The next part involved the Ambassador conveying his concerns that the conflict will impede multilateral cooperation on Afghanistan, which Lu essentially confirmed was correct by informing him that the US was considering pulling out of related talks to protest Russia’s participation in them. The Ambassador was then admittedly forthright as he described his own words in telling Lu how disappointed Pakistan is with the US ignoring its support and taking it for granted without reciprocating.


He added that “We were surprised that if our position on the Ukraine crisis was so important for the U.S., why the U.S. had not engaged with us at the top leadership level prior to the Moscow visit and even when the UN was scheduled to vote... Don replied that the thinking in Washington was that given the current political turmoil in Pakistan, this was not the right time for such engagement and it could wait till the political situation in Pakistan settled down.”


The US’ thinly disguised demand to remove IK or else


After that, the Ambassador “reiterated our position that countries should not be made to choose sides in a complex situation like the Ukraine crisis and stressed the need for having active bilateral communications at the political leadership level.” He also claimed that “It seemed that the U.S. was applying different criteria for India and Pakistan... it appeared that the U.S. expected more from India than Pakistan, yet it appeared to be more concerned about Pakistan’s position.”


The cable concluded by quoting Lu’s confirmation that the IK-Putin meeting harmed Pakistani-US ties: “I would argue that it has already created a dent in the relationship from our perspective. Let us wait for a few days to see whether the political situation changes, which would mean that we would not have a big disagreement about this issue and the dent would go away very quickly. Otherwise, we will have to confront this issue head on and decide how to manage it.”


Biden obviously approved Lu’s indirectly conveyed threats


The Ambassador’s professional assessment of his meeting with Lu then followed and was that “Don could not have conveyed such a strong demarche without the express approval of the White House, to which he referred repeatedly. Clearly, Don spoke out of turn on Pakistan’s internal political process. We need to seriously reflect on this and consider making an appropriate demarche to the U.S. Cd’A a.i [chargé d’affaires ad interim-ed] in Islamabad.”


Reading between the lines


Having summarized the cable’s contents, it’s now time to analyze them to determine whether they do indeed prove American meddling in Pakistan’s fledgling democracy like IK has consistently alleged. Without a doubt, he was right all along. His Ambassador was also correct in assessing that Biden gave Lu permission to say what he did, which indisputably signalled the US’ approval for removing IK through superficially “democratic” means via the vote of no confidence that was initiated literally the day later.


As he was infamously quoted saying, “All will be forgiven” in bilateral ties if IK is ousted, otherwise Pakistan risks “isolation” and the likely economic consequences that this could entail. While he didn’t say so directly, he very clearly hinted that the perks that the military and political elite receive from the West will be cut off, not to mention the socio-political unrest that could follow its economy’s possible collapse. This was sufficient for convincing the top military brass and the opposition to unite in removing IK.


America’s Geostrategic imperatives


From the perspective of the NSC, which Lu confirmed took time out of its members’ extremely busy schedules shortly after the start of Russia’s special operation to discuss Pakistan of all topics, that South Asian state’s patriotic multipolar leadership was perceived as a threat to the US’ hegemonic interests. In particular, the US’ opposition to IK’s visionary cultivation of strategic economic ties with Russia was driven by its fear that this could unprecedentedly accelerate multipolar processes.


They accordingly prioritized the post-modern coup that was described here in order to sabotage joint Russian-Pakistani connectivity efforts in Eurasia, capsize their planned strategic energy deal, and thus retain the US’ neo-colonial shackles on Pakistan’s sovereignty so that it forever remains a vassal. These imperatives were considered so important to American policy at the opening phase of the New Cold War that thinly veiled threats turned into tangible action less than 24 hours after they were first conveyed.


Pakistan’s post-modern fascist dictatorship


The ends justified the means from the perspective of American policymakers, which is why they turn a blind eye towards the post-modern fascist dictatorship that was imposed immediately after IK’s ouster despite it going against everything that the US claims to stand for. It’s jailed thousands of opposition members, aggressively censors the media, and has been accused of assassinating journalist Arshad Sharif as well as attempting to do the same to IK last November.


The former Prime Minister’s PTI has also been hit with a spree of high-level defections that are arguably attributable to military pressure upon its leaders, including torture, in order to divide the party ahead of the next elections so as to guarantee the victory of their PDM (particularly PMLN and PPP) puppets. Amidst these draconian moves and the slide towards dystopia, the economy collapsed, terrorist threats have metastasized, and there’s a risk that the East Pakistan tragedy might eventually be repeated.


Concluding thoughts


The nearly quarter billion people who live in Pakistan are now suffering due to a handful of corrupt military and political figures dutifully complying with the dog whistle blown by a leading US diplomat ordering them to depose their patriotic multipolar premier or risk losing perks from the West. None of this would have happened had former Chief Of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa not betrayed his oath, and it’ll be a tremendous struggle for the country to recover from his treachery, if ever.




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