WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a letter to American lawmakers, has highlighted Washington’s ‘consistent’ enga­gement with all stakeholders in Pakistan while also underlining ‘significant concerns’ on issues like freedom of expression and political inclusion.

The letter was issued in response to another letter that more than 60 US lawmakers sent to Mr Blinken on May 16, urging him to use “all the tools” at his disposal to promote democracy and protect basic human rights in Pakistan.

The secretary’s response balances the need to maintain cordial relations with Pakistan’s rulers without compromising on the US stance on human rights and democracy. And it does so very carefully, making sure that Washington does not appear to be taking sides in a dispute that many in the US capital believe is not about to end.

The letter informs the lawmakers that the Department of State “firmly believes that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan that fully respects the rights of its citizens is critical to US interests”.

Then it refers to Secretary Blinken’s May 9 statement — issued hours after crowds invaded military installations across Pakistan. In the statement, Mr Blinken had said that the United States “wants the developing situation in Pakistan to remain consistent with the rule of law and Pakistan’s constitution”.

The letter then informs the lawmakers that the Department of State “maintains close communication with the government of Pakistan and other stakeholders in the country” and “strongly support(s) the upholding of democratic principles and the rule of law for all”.

It reminds the lawmakers that the Department of State’s 2022 Human Rights Report “outlines significant concerns regarding issues of freedom of expression, including for members of the press, and political inclusion in Pakistan”.

The letter assures the lawmakers that “as we do with other countries, the Depa­rtment and our diplomatic mission in Islamabad regularly discuss these issues with Pakistani officials and civil society”.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2023

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