Pakistan’s political turmoil echoes in US Congress

Published April 30, 2023
US Congressman Brad Sherman delivers a speech in the US House of Representatives on democracy in Pakistan. — Twitter
US Congressman Brad Sherman delivers a speech in the US House of Representatives on democracy in Pakistan. — Twitter

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s political crisis echoed in the US House of Representatives on Friday night when a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee highlighted the need for the United States to side with democracy and not with the leaders more pliable to Washington.

On Saturday, Congressman Brad Sherman, a record 13th-time member of the House from California and an influential member of the ruling Democratic Party, also put his speech on his official Twitter site.

“I would like to address recent events in Pakistan,” he told the House Speaker, raising the current political dispute, apparently for the first time, inside the US Congress.

“In evaluating those events, some would say America should root for whichever political leader styles himself as more pro-American and has been easier for us to deal with on this or that bilateral issue,” he added.

PM Sharif ‘easier to deal with’ than Imran, says Brad Sherman

“But I would say, and I think the State Department agrees, that what comes first is our dedication to democracy and the rule of law.”

The US lawmaker acknowledged that Mr Khan, who last year blamed Washington for toppling his government but later withdrew the charge, was not as pliable as some other Pakistani political leaders were.

“Imran Khan was difficult for us to deal with. Prime Minister Sharif, somewhat, easier. But the question is democracy and the rule of law,” he said.

In early April, Mr Sherman wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, asking him to “use all diplomatic channels to urge Pakistani authorities to investigate the alleged abuses and to hold accountable anybody who may be responsible”.

And after a phone conversation with ex-premier Imran Khan two weeks ago, he said Mr Khan had assured him he was not against America. Mr Sherman also dispelled the impression that he was campaigning for Mr Khan in America, making it clear that he was only backing democracy.

Mr Sherman has close contacts with PTI supporters in the Pakistani American community who last week claimed to have collected signatures from 92 legislators for another letter to Secretary Blinken, reiterating the need to support democratic forces in Pakistan.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the US deal with the Taliban, is also prominent among those urging the Pakistani government to implement the SC decision to hold Punjab elections.

Mr Sherman also underlined the need to do so in his speech on the floor of the House. “The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ruled that there should be provincial elections in Punjab and later on in another province. That is the rule of law.

“I believe that the Supreme Court has ruled that its initial ruling is final and unappealable. And the court has ordered that the funds be released as are necessary to hold those provincial elections.”

Mr Sherman indicated that it was the SC decision that prompted him to make such a passionate appeal for democracy in Pakistan. “America stands not with this policy or that policy or a government that will agree with us on this issue or that issue. America stands for democracy and the rule of law,” he said.

“Pakistan has national elections set forth in October and nothing is more important for Pakistan than that those elections be timely, legitimate, fair and that whoever wins the elections be allowed to govern,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2023

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