US Congressman Sherman writes to Blinken about ‘political victimisation’ in Pakistan

Published April 12, 2023
United States Congressman Brad Sherman. — Twitter/@BradSherman
United States Congressman Brad Sherman. — Twitter/@BradSherman

United States Congressman Brad Sherman has written to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, voicing concerns over “democracy, human rights, and rule of law” violations in Pakistan, it emerged on Wednesday.

In a letter dated April 11, Sherman asked Blinken to “guide the United States’ Pakistan policy toward a greater commitment to human rights and to use all US diplomatic channels to urge Pakistani authorities to investigate the alleged abuses and to hold accountable anybody who may be responsible”.

“I urge the authorities to make sure that going forward political figures or citizens who simply want to demonstrate are not subjected to anti-democratic consequences,” he added.

He highlighted several alleged cases of human rights violations in Pakistan, including cases against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and media ban on his speeches, detention of protesters, the alleged torture of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill and journalist Jameel Farooqui, and the recent arrest of PTI leader Ali Amin Gandapur.

The letter also mentioned the delay in Punjab and KP elections — terming it “another sign of skirting democratic processes” — as well as Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah’s statement that “either he (Imran) will be eliminated from the political arena or us (PML-N)”.

It said: “The United States does not involve itself in Pakistan’s internal governmental matters — I respect its Constitution and its democratic process — but we must not shy away from raising our voice when the human rights of the Pakistani people are at stake.

It recalled Human Rights Watch’s statement asking for “urgent investigations into Mr Gill’s complaints” and questioning sedition charges against him.

Regarding the ban on broadcasting Imran’s speeches, Sherman also recalled Amnesty International’s statement that called it a “disturbing demonstration of targeting critical voices”.

On the matter of election delay, Sherman mentioned the government’s demand for a full-court bench and said “scholars argue that such an en banc review is not called for by Pakistani law”. He added it “would be helpful if the foreign law experts at the State Department could confirm this conclusion”.

The letter also listed various other “concerns about conduct by the government or its agents” such as extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, political prisoners, serious restrictions on internet freedom, substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly, severe restrictions of religious freedom, threats of violence targeting LGBT+ persons among others.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry hailed Sherman’s letter in a tweet, saying, “Letter by a senior member of USA Congress Foreign Affairs committee to Secretary Blinken shows the growing concerns of international community on the HR abuses in Pakistan by a fascist government.”

He called on the European Union and United Kingdom parliamentarians to “raise [the] issue of human rights abuses in their jurisdictions as well”.

Recently, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin said she was working towards getting the support of 100 Congress members to write to Blinken asking him to “push for democratic values” in Pakistan.

PTI hiring of US firms

Following the PTI’s efforts to improve its image in the US and inform the international community of the crackdown against the party at the hands of the PDM government, a number of US representatives and leaders have been voicing their concerns, echoing the PTI’s grievances.

PTI leaders in the United Kingdom and Europe have also sprung into action by staging protests, writing to MPs and speaking with human rights organisations to inform them about the government’s actions against the PTI.

In August 2022, the PTI US chapter hired a public relations firm to improve its image in the US after Imran’s ouster-related allegations portrayed the PTI as anti-American. The agreement revealed that the party was to pay the firm $25,000-$30,000 per month.

Similarly, it was revealed last month that the PTI in March 2023 had hired a second lobbying firm in the US to make Americans aware of the threat to Imran’s life.

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