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Audience members interrupt congressional hearing over Pakistan, Khan

Audience members at a House hearing on Wednesday interrupted the testimony of a U.S. State Department official who said it is a conspiracy theory that the U.S. ousted former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was asked during a subcommittee hearing on Pakistan’s elections about the unfounded theories that the U.S. conspired to remove Khan from power. Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in 2022.

“I want to be very clear on this point. These allegations, these — this conspiracy theory is a lie. It is a complete falsehood. I have reviewed the press reporting related to this what’s called the ‘cypher’ in Pakistan on the alleged leaked diplomatic cable from the embassy here. It is not accurate,” Lu said before members of the audience began to shout.

The Intercept reported last year that the U.S. State Department encouraged the Pakistani government in 2022 to remove Khan from power, citing a Pakistani government document.

The Intercept’s D.C. Bureau Chief, Ryan Grim, posted a video on X, formerly Twitter, that showed people in the audience for the hearing shouting in response to Lu’s comments.

Members of the audience began to chant and continued to accuse Lu of lying as they shouted him down.

A few minutes after the disruption, Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.) asked those who disrupted the hearing to be removed. A video posted by Grim shows officers escorting a few members of the audience out.

“I would like to point out that we in Congress have a job to do. This is an incredibly important topic. And I think out of respect for those people who are interested in this topic, the people who want to be disruptive, should be gaveled out and removed from this hearing,” McCormick said.

Khan had demanded in 2022 that Lu be removed from his position, citing unsubstantiated claims that he was involved in the U.S. conspiring to remove Khan from power. The State Department said at the time “there is absolutely no truth to these allegations.”

Lu addressed the disruption after a few people were removed and mentioned the theories again, revealing that he has received death threats over them.

“One of the things that I have faced in these last two years, is some of these allegations, unfounded allegations have resulted in regular death threats against me, threats against my family, involvement of local police,” he said.

“There is a line of acceptability. And I do think at times some of the free speech has verged into threats of violence, which is not acceptable in our society,” he added.

The Hill has reached out to Capitol Police for comment.

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