In an explosive revelation that could have far reaching consequences beyond the internal politics of Pakistan, an Urdu columnist has written an account narrated by former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan, where he convinced Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman not to attack Iran.
Journalist Mazhar Barlas, in his Urdu column for the Daily Jang, wrote that Khan himself divulged the one-to-one discussions he had with crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is now the Saudi prime minister as well.
Barlas claims that Khan said prince Mohammad bin Salman, or MbS, was intent on launching a military attack on Iran, and he wanted Pakistan’s “help” in this endeavour. Barlas said that Khan convinced MbS not to attack, but to choose the path of negotiations instead of a military approach.
Barlas alleges that Khan told him he was on an official visit in Riyadh, where he spent 45 minutes in a car alone with MbS, during which these secretive discussions took place between the two leaders.
The disclosure of such sensitive conversations comes at a time when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recommitted to the financial rescue of a desperate Pakistan. It is possible that, whether true or not, this story could have negative implications on Pak-Saudi relations as well as Pak-Iran relations. These allegations could also shed an unflattering light on the recent maiden visit of army chief General Syed Asim Munir to Saudi Arabia.
Former foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry was flabbergasted at the reporting. He said that communications between heads of state and government are always kept confidential, since they pertain to the highest level of international relations.
From a legal standpoint, there is the question of the draconian Official Secrets Act which prohibits officials and citizens from disclosing classified information, and of the oath of office of the prime minister, wherein the chief executive categorically vows not to divulge any matter brought before them in their official capacity.
Observers are also curious as to whether the former prime minister, well known for his gaffes and off-the-cuff remarks, had told Barlas to keep their conversation “off the record”, or not.