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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Cipher and foreign conspiracy: Diplomatic threat or a hoax?

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered an investigation into several leaked audio conversations purportedly between former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his aides, dubbing them a risk to national security. In the recordings, Khan appears to be telling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) officials to handle the alleged "US regime change" diplomatic cipher tactfully.

For the last five months, the political environment of the country has faced grave turmoil and instability, whether economic or social. The whole nation seems to be divided among two main political camps, PTI and PDM. Either way, the state institutions have been falsely blamed for any mishap and political or economic instability in the country. To understand the current political chaos, we have to go back to the source, from where did it all start? What political party is promoting what narrative and to what extent these narratives are true?

Five months back PTI’s chairman Imran Khan had to resign from the premiership after a vote of no-confidence motion was presented before the parliament. It was an entirely political move, undertaken by opposition political parties against Imran Khan. The military, civil establishment and state intuitions had nothing to do with this political matter yet Imran Khan and his party adopted a narrative that not only blamed state institutions but also alleged foreign powers to conspire against his government. Imran Khan claimed that the US embassy released a so-called cipher that was a threat to his government.

Read more: Part two of Imran Khan’s audio on US cipher leaked

What is a cipher? Is it an unusual letter? Or is it common practice in diplomacy? For laymen, a cipher is in fact a common practice in international diplomacy. A cipher is a type of letter that diplomats and ambassadors use to communicate with each other. It is a deeply encrypted and coded letter that usually contains sensitive diplomatic information.

Why wasn’t the Cipher discussed in the parliament?

Imran Khan and his party even before coming to power have always talked about the importance of parliament in a democracy. Imran Khan used examples of the British parliamentary system and how the Prime Minister is answerable to the parliament.

But after attaining power, Imran Khan was hardly seen in the parliament let alone, he is answerable to it. After knowing about the alleged threatening cipher from the US, one ought to ask PTI officials, if the cipher issue was as big of a threat to the national security and sovereignty of the country as they say, why didn’t the PTI government present the cipher issue in the honorable parliament to discuss and to take a diplomatic stance against it like on the matter of giving back Squadron Leader Abbhinandan to India. Was presenting the cipher issue before the parliament, not the government’s constitutional and ethical duty? Why was it that the PTI raised the cipher conspiracy after Imran Khan was thrown out of power via the vote of no confidence?

National Security Committee on Foreign Conspiracy

On 23rd April Pakistan’s National Security Committee on Friday ruled out any “foreign conspiracy” behind the removal of Imran Khan from power through a no-trust vote in parliament. According to the National Security Committee “after reviewing the contents of the communication, the assessments received, and the conclusions presented by the security agencies, concludes that there has been no foreign conspiracy,” On June 14 Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Major General Babar Iftikhar said the National Security Committee in its meetings categorically said no evidence of conspiracy was found about the alleged regime change in the country.

Read more: Imran Khan welcomes his audio leak on US cipher

DG ISPR also said all three service chiefs were present at the meeting. The participants in the meeting were informed by the agencies that there was no evidence of any conspiracy. “Nothing like that,” he said in an interview with a private news channel. To conclude, there was no proof or evidence presented before the national security committee meeting that proved any foreign conspiracy let alone a regime change operation.

Supreme Court on Foreign Conspiracy

According to the honorable Supreme court of Pakistan, it was the executive duty to take a decision on cipher but the PTI government didn’t conduct or order any “inquiry. The supreme court too ruled out Imran Khan’s narrative by saying that courts give verdicts on evidence, not speculations.

This means that even in the most honorable and highest judicial platform the PTI members failed to provide any substantial evidence of a foreign conspiracy and US cipher against Imran Khan.

Foreign Ministry’s stance on the matter

PTI members also claimed and accused that the foreign ministry deliberately hid the cipher from the government. The foreign ministry denied this claim by PTI member Shehbaz Gill without any evidence. Foreign Ministry in a press release termed his claims as “entirely baseless” that the Cipher Communication received from the Embassy in Washington was ‘hidden’ from the Foreign Minister or Prime Minister. All of the above events indicate that the Cipher and foreign conspiracy was nothing but a political campaign to attract an audience with an anti-American narrative.

In a recent media talk, PTI’s senior member Shireen Mazari again accuses and questions the foreign ministry of hiding cipher from the then Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Interestingly Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement on a private TV channel contradicts Shireen Mazari’s claims. Shah Mehmood Qureshi accepts the fact that he has in fact seen the cipher after days of its release. The very reason Imran Khan and PTI refuse to publicize the so-called cipher is that it doesn’t really exist the way PTI wants it to be portrayed. In addition, Imran Khan’s audio leaks regarding the cipher conspiracy have further confirmed the PTI’s dubious narrative, lies and deception.

Read more: Imran Khan’s alleged audio on US cipher leaked

Imran Khan’s Audio Leaks

In the first audio leak in which Imran Khan, while talking to Azam Khan, says that “we will play with the cipher narrative”. If it was a genuine threat against the state of Pakistan then Imran Khan would’ve never said let’s play with the cipher narrative. It is clearly evident that Imran Khan’s whole narrative is merely for his political gains. Azam Khan then says that “we will increase the minutes of the meeting according to our need”. At the end of the first audio leak, Imran Khan asks Azam Khan if the US ambassador has written anything. Azam Khan replies “we don’t have the copy”. For the last five months, PTI and its leaders falsely propagated the narrative of a foreign cipher and conspiracy and lied to the whole nation without any sort of evidence or proof.

In the second part of the cipher audio leak in which Shah Mehmood and Asad Umar have also joined the conversation. It has further raised questions about PTI’s whole narrative. Imran Khan in this audio leak is clearly heard directing the ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to deliberately increase the minutes of the meeting so that they can hype up their narrative of a foreign conspiracy. The audio also revealed that there was no “letter” at all.

While Imran Khan is talking about fabricating the minutes of the meeting and the so-called “letter”, Asad Umar asks Imran Khan, “Why are you deliberately calling it a letter because it is a transcript of a meeting”. Imran Khan then replies that because the common people cannot understand the transcript, therefore, we will use the term “letter” and we will propagate it in our jalsas.

Read more: Tyranny of Misrule – Gen. Tariq Khan

Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the US

PTI’s anti-American stance and propagation of US conspiracy against the PTI government has indeed badly affected the Pak-US bilateral relations. The whole notion is in fact a somewhat counterproductive activity that has damaged Pakistan’s reputation internationally. While India leaves no opportunity to isolate Pakistan diplomatically, Imran Khan’s anti-American political campaigns have further helped India’s efforts against Pakistan.

It seems as if Imran Khan merely to achieve his political goals and objectives has risked Pak-US diplomatic relations. Although the above-mentioned events have raised many questions on the issue of cipher and foreign conspiracy, many more questions are still to be raised on PTI’s narrative and to what extent it is dubious in nature.


The writer has a master’s degree in Mass Communication from the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad and often writes on geopolitics, international developments, and strategic affairs with a special focus on Af-Pak affairs, Asia, and the Middle East.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.