ISLAMABAD: Over 65 members of US Congress have written a bipartisan letter to Secretary Antony Blinken, announced the Pakistan-American Political Action Committee (PAKPAC) on Thursday, to raise concern over the state of democracy and human rights in Pakistan over the past few months.
While the text of the letter does not explicitly mention the government crackdown on former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, it asks the administration in Washington to use “diplomatic tools” to push the Pakistani authorities to uphold democratic values, human rights and rule of law.
Pakistan’s coalition administration has periodically arrested PTI leaders since the downfall of Khan’s administration in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence last year in April. The ex-premier attributed his ouster from power to an international conspiracy hatched against him by officials of the Biden administration in Washington, though the US has frequently denied the allegation.
“Over the past several months, we have become increasingly concerned by the blanket bans on demonstrations and deaths of several prominent critics of the government,” said the letter. “We ask for your help pressuring the Government of Pakistan to ensure protesters can assert their demands in a peaceful and non-violent way, free from harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary detention.”
“As both Democrats and Republicans who care about the bilateral relationship [with Pakistan], we are concerned that violence and increased political tension could spiral into a deteriorating security situation in Pakistan,” it added.
The members of Congress urged Secretary Blinken to use all diplomatic tools, “including calls, visits, and public statements,” to address the ongoing situation in Pakistan.
“Supporting democracy in Pakistan is in the national interest of the United States,” they maintained.
The PAKPAC commended the Congress members who signed the letters and said Khan’s arrest on corruption charges last week had thrown “the nation into chaos” and brought out “millions to the streets in protests.
“The alarming turn of events has sparked immense concern among the Pakistani-American community,” it said in a statement, “and amplified the urgency for immediate action to protect democratic institutions, independent judiciary, freedom of press and human rights in Pakistan.”
It added the letter to Secretary Blinken highlighted the need for the US “to push Pakistan to curb democratic backsliding while also advocating for robust measures to protect human rights, freedom of speech, press freedom, and the rule of law.”