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Monday, May 29, 2023

US lawmakers demand Blinken address human rights issues in Pakistan

WASHINGTON: More than 60 US lawmakers, in a letter, asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to exert pressure on the Pakistani government in order to address the worsening human rights situation in the country.

The letter was written after the efforts of the Pakistani-American Political Action Committee (PAKPAC). 

The letter, coauthored by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, was signed by 65 other lawmakers who are deeply troubled by the democratic backsliding and human rights abuses in Pakistan.

Khan, who was deposed as prime minister through a no-confidence move in April last year, was arrested on May 9 — the day when the country witnessed deadly protests. He was detained in the Al-Qadir Trust corruption case, but a court later declared his arrest against the law and granted him bail.

The deadly protests took the lives of at least 10 people and injured several others, with the authorities not only arresting the party leaders but thousands of PTI workers as well.

The timing of the letter is crucial as it comes just days after the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan that lead to widespread chaos and massive protests throughout the nation. 

The Pakistani-American community is alarmed by these developments and is demanding immediate action to protect democratic institutions, an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, and human rights in Pakistan.

Asad Malik, President of the PAKPAC National Board, stressed the significance of bipartisanship during this critical period for Pakistani democracy. He commended members of both parties for joining forces to express their concerns and defend the fundamental principles they hold dear. 

The bipartisan support for the letter illustrates the unwavering commitment of elected officials to upholding democracy and human rights, transcending political differences, he stressed

The letter sent to Secretary Blinken highlights the urgency for the United States to ask Pakistan to halt its democratic backsliding and emphasise the need for robust measures to safeguard human rights, freedom of speech, press freedom, and the rule of law.

The PAKPAC praised the members of Congress who displayed exceptional leadership and dedication to democracy and human rights by signing the letter. Their commitment to protecting democracy and human rights in Pakistan serves as a testament to the power of collective action.

In the past three weeks, the PAKPAC mobilised more than 2,000 Pakistani Americans to write to their respective members of Congress, urging them to support the letter and encourage Secretary Blinken to hold the Pakistani government accountable for its actions. 

This grassroots organising within the Pakistani American community demonstrates its growing political influence and its ability to make its voice heard through civic advocacy, the letter stated.

The PAKPAC and the Pakistani American community remain united in their pursuit of justice and democratic values, calling on Secretary Blinken and the United States government to provide unwavering support to ensure a prosperous and democratic future for Pakistan.

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