WASHINGTON: The United States said on Monday that Washington does comment on “obviously unfounded” cases, but former prime minister Imran Khan’s arrest in the Toshakhana case was not one of those.
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller made these comments at a news briefing in Washington where he had to face a number of probing questions about the PTI chairman’s arrest and Washington’s refusal to comment on it.
“We believe that it’s an internal matter for Pakistan and we continue to call for the respect of democratic principles, human rights, and rule of law in Pakistan as we do around the world,” said the US official while responding to the first question.
When reminded that the US response has been criticised as subdued and muted in some places, Mr Miller said: “First of all, I will let people characterise the response in all kinds of different ways.”
Official says Pakistani politics are a matter for its people to decide
But “I think our response to this arrest and previous arrests have been consistent and clear at all times, it’s an internal matter for Pakistan”, he added.
When another journalist asked how it was different from other cases that the US had commented on, Mr Miller said: “There are cases that are so obviously unfounded that the United States believes it should say something about the matter. We have not made that determination here. We believe it’s an internal matter.”
When a journalist reminded him that there were cases in Russia that the United States commented on, Mr Miller said Washington commented on those cases where Russia clearly violated human rights.
The journalist then referred to the case of Julian Assange, an Australian citizen who leaked US official documents in 2010 and has been imprisoned in London while Washington seeks his extradition. “Is it not Britain’s (or Australia’s) internal matter?” the journalist asked. “He has clearly been charged by the US Justice Department,” Mr Miller replied.
“So other countries should say nothing?” the journalist asked again.
“We fully respect the right of other countries to make their positions clear on this and other matters,” Mr Miller said. “We respect their right to raise [the issue but] we will make clear our belief [too], … the fact that he was charged with very serious crimes that severely harmed the national security of the United States.”
Responding to a set of questions from Dawn, another State Department spokesperson said Washington was aware of the reports that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had decided to dissolve parliament on Aug 9 and hold elections.
“We urge Pakistani authorities to act consistent with their constitution and laws, as we do with countries around the world,” said the US official when asked if Washington wants Islamabad to hold elections within 90 days of the dissolution assemblies, as required.
“Pakistani politics are a matter for the Pakistani people to decide, according to their constitution and laws,” said the official while responding to questions about the future caretaker set-up. “We remain committed to working with Pakistan on a range of issues.”
Asked if the elections should be held on time, he said: “We would refer you to the government of Pakistan for further inquiries on the timeline of elections.”
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2023