WASHINGTON: The Pakistani American community is planning a bipartisan meeting of US lawmakers on Capitol Hill next month to highlight the political situation in Pakistan.
“The situation is getting worse by the day and it’s beyond the scope of only letters and tweets,” said Dr Asif Mahmood, a California Democrat who initiated the move.
“We have to move to the next step: Conference/hearing at Capitol Hill cosponsored by Rep Brad Sherman, Rep Jim Costa and me in the 3rd week of June.”
The purpose of this hearing, and other similar efforts, “is to curtail these atrocities by raising those at the highest levels or they will never stop”, he said.
A PTI leader says a demonstration will be held in Washington to show ‘support for democracy’ in Pakistan
Dr Mahmood also initiated a letter demanding unfettered democracy in Pakistan, sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken early this month with the signatures of 69 lawmakers. He now plans to send another letter to Mr Blinken, signed by prominent US Senators.
This week, the chairperson of the Pakistan caucus in Congress, Sheila Jackson Lee also joined the lawmakers who are expressing concern at reported human rights abuses in Pakistan.
“As the founder and chair of the … Congressional Pakistan caucus, I am extremely concerned about these reports,” particularly about the moves directed at the former Pakistani prime minister.
Atif Khan, a PTI leader from Texas, told Dawn that his party plans to gather 5,000 to 10,000 people in Washington next month to “show our support to democracy in Pakistan”.
Commenting on PTI USA’s activities, Michael Kugelman, a South Asia scholar at Wilson Center, Washington, said the Pakistan diaspora in the US has been strongly pro-Imran Khan for years.
“PTI has long had a large support base and membership —including some key leaders — here. That trend will likely intensify with the exodus of Insafians from Pakistan, many coming here. It could become a party in exile in the US,” he wrote in a tweet.
Leaders of the Pakistani community, however, point out that as the community grows its roots in the US, it has increased its participation in American politics as well.
“These people are here to stay. Now, they will have a say in every major issue,” said another scholar, Arif Jamal. “The Pakistani government will have to learn to deal with them.”
The most influential among the Pakistani Americans are physicians of Pakistani origin — estimates about them vary from 15,000 to 30,000.
“They have the resources to court US lawmakers, hold fund-raisers and solicit votes for them,” said political activist Khawar Mehdi. “And in return, they demand and get their support on the issues that concern them.”
Since Imran Khan’s ouster, PTI has formed a new group, Physicians for Khan and, according to him, 1,800 Pakistani physicians have already joined this group.
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2023