Pakistan Says U.S. Relations to 'Remain on Track' After Imran Khan Ousted

A Pakistani official has expressed to Newsweek that relations with the United States would stay their course after a no-confidence vote prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has accused Washington of seeking to oust him.

The Pakistani official told Newsweek that the vote was "a parliamentary process as per the constitution, and that "Pakistan-U.S. relations will remain on track as is evident from the engagement we had in the past one year."

The parliamentary motion Saturday produced 174 votes against Khan, two more than needed to remove him from office, and followed a dramatic escalation in political rifts within a nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people that constitute the world's second-largest Muslim population.

Since coming to office in August 2018, the populist cricket star-turned-politician has faced growing tensions with the nation's influential military leadership as well as worsening inflation. Abroad, he had embraced a tightening bond with neighboring China and an increasingly difficult relationship with the U.S., which has forged stronger ties in recent years with Pakistan's top rival, India.

As support grew for Khan's ousting, the Pakistani premier alleged last week that the effort was a result of "blatant interference in domestic politics by the United States." His accusation was later backed by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, a fellow member of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party who attempted to block the no-confidence vote and dissolve parliament last Sunday, only to be overruled on Friday by the Supreme Court.

President Joe Biden's administration has vehemently denied the claims.

"Let me just say very bluntly there is absolutely no truth to these allegations," State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter told reporters Friday.

"Of course, we continue to follow these developments, and we respect and support Pakistan's constitutional process and rule of law," she added. "But again, these allegations are absolutely not true."

Pakistan, Prime, Minister, Imran, Khan, military, parade
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (3L) and President Arif Alvi (3R) watch Pakistan's Air Force fighter jets perform during the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad on March 23. The Pakistani premier was ousted from office on April 9 following a no-confidence vote in parliament. Ghulam Rasool/AFP/Getty Images

In a tweet posted shortly after news of the vote, Senator Faisal Javed Khan, a fellow member of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said he "saw off" the Pakistani leader from the prime minister's office.

"He walked out gracefully and didn't bow down," the Pakistani lawmaker wrote. "He has lifted the entire Nation. Feeling proud to be a Pakistani and blessed to have a leader like him. Pakistan Khan - Imran Khan."

The decision was celebrated by opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, who is widely viewed as poised to seek leadership in the next elections, which the country's electoral commission has said could be held in October at the earliest. Sharif could take power even earlier if selected by parliament when it reconvenes on Monday.

Khan's departure continues a difficult political legacy for Pakistan, in which no prime minister has ever finished a full five-year term in since the Islamic Republic was founded upon a bloody division from India and independence from the United Kingdom in 1947. The disputed border region of Kashmir was the source of two of three more wars fought between Islamabad and New Delhi and continues to see deadly unrest to this day.

Throughout the Cold War, Pakistan was a close partner of the U.S., as well as China, while India maintained close ties with the Soviet Union. In fact, Islamabad played a pivotal role in setting the stage for Washington and Beijing moving to establish relations half a century ago.

It was also through support from Pakistan that the U.S. offered support to mujahideen fighters who successfully routed a 1980s Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. But as Pakistan cultivated close ties with the Taliban who then took power in Kabul, relations between Islamabad and Washington were tested in the wake of the latter's post-9/11 "War on Terror" in which the U.S. has accused Pakistan of aiding and abetting certain militant groups while accepting billions of dollars in aid, an allegation Islamabad has repeatedly denied.

These tensions have been exacerbated by Pakistan's growing strategic proximity to China, with which it built an economic corridor in 2013 now considered to be one of the most important hubs in Chinese President Xi Jinping's global Belt and Road Initiative. The U.S., for its part, has pursued great cooperation with India, including through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue that also includes Australia and Japan.

The war launched in February by Russia against Ukraine has also had a major impact on South Asian geopolitics as neither India nor Pakistan have heeded U.S. calls to condemn the Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions. Khan had sought to bolster relations with Moscow and met the Russian leader just hours after he commence hostilities against Ukraine.

Khan had later argued that this trip was a motivating factor in what he claimed were U.S. efforts to promote his removal from office. He went so far as to even praise India's "independent foreign policy" in the face of external pressure, a remark that garnered major criticism from opposition figures.

And as the frictions between Khan and Pakistan's armed forces grew in the leadup to the prime minister's ousting, Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa began to openly criticize Russia and praise "excellent ties" with the U.S.

This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.