WASHINGTON: Former prime minister Imran Khan has spoken to four US lawmakers in less than a month, urging them to support his demand for free and fair elections in Pakistan, according to the PTI’s US chapter.
All four legislators — Ted Lieu, Eric Swalwell, Brad Sherman, and Mike Levin — are Democrats, which indicates PTI’s interest in mending its ties with the current Democratic administration.
Adviser to the PTI Chairman for Overseas Affairs Atif Khan told Dawn that the talks focused on “the need to hold only free and fair elections can stabilise Pakistan, as only elections can stabilise the country.”
Atif Khan said that the party was using “all three channels, the media, Congress and the administration, to convey its message: stop human rights violations in Pakistan, support rule of law and democratic values, and support the demand for elections”.
Imran gets in touch with four US legislators to seek support for fair polls
At a recent PTI rally outside the White House, PTI leaders also urged the Biden administration “not to deal with an extremely unpopular government, which has no moral justification for continuing to rule Pakistan”.
The campaign also shows PTI’s eagerness to persuade the Biden administration to forget the bitterness of the recent past. After their ouster in April 2022, Imran Khan and his party built their campaign on an anti-American platform, accusing Washington of conspiring to topple his government.
‘Mission to win over Americans’
PTI officials in the US have hired at least two paid lobbyists to mend their relations with the Biden administration.
For them, it seems important to convince Washington that neither their party nor their leader are anti-American and that if Mr Khan returned to power, he will work to improve US-Pakistan relations.
“We will continue our efforts until free and fair elections happen and power is transferred to those elected by people,” said Dr Asif Mahmood, a Pakistani American physician who is playing a key role in the campaign to win over Americans.
Besides playing a major role in arranging telephonic conversations between Mr Khan and US lawmakers, last month Dr Mahmood also took a delegation of legislators from California to Pakistan where they also met Imran Khan.
Dr Mahmood also has close relations with Congressman Sherman, who sent a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, voicing concerns over “democracy, human rights, and rule of law” violations in Pakistan.
He asked Mr 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 wrote.
Mr Sherman highlighted several alleged cases of human rights violations in Pakistan, including cases against PTI Chairman Imran Khan, media ban on his speeches, detention of protesters, the alleged torture of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill and journalist Jameel Farooqui, and the arrest of PTI leader Ali Amin Gandapur.
Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2023