WASHINGTON: US Senator Chris Van Hollen has said that the United States played a “very instrumental” role in arranging the latest economic relief to Pakistan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and would continue to support Islamabad’s efforts to stabilise its economy.

At the annual meeting of the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) chapter of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA), Senator Van Hollen, who was born in Karachi, also underlined the need for an enduring relationship between the United States and Pakistan.

“The United States has been very instrumental in making sure that the IMF came forward with its emergency economic relief,” said the US senator while talking to Pakistani journalists at the annual APPNA dinner.

“Obviously, there are continuing challenges, but the United States recognizes that a good relationship between the United States and Pakistan is important to Pakistan and the United States, to regional stability and to security around the world,” he added.

In July this year, the IMF approved a 9-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for Pakistan for an amount of about $3 billion — 111 per cent of the country’s quota — to support the government’s economic stabilisation programme and, as the senator said, Washington played a key role in arranging this deal.

The Biden administration, he said, was supporting Pakistan’s efforts to stabilise its economy because “it wants to have very strong bilateral relations with Pakistan. And this is why in the aftermath of the terrible flooding, you saw a substantial US response”.

Mr Van Hollen who, like President Joe Biden, is also a Democrat, assured Islamabad that the Biden administration had no intentions of interfering in the internal politics of Pakistan and was never involved in political engineering.

“Let me be clear, the Biden administration was not interfering in Pakistani politics,” said the US lawmaker when asked about the US role in Pakistani politics.

“I have been in regular communications with the Biden administration over a period of time and I can say with great confidence that they were not trying to engineer anything with respect to Pakistan’s politics.”

The dispute about the alleged US involvement in former prime minister Imran Khan’s ouster refuses to go away as PTI supporters continue to raise it at various fora, including news briefings and congressional panels.

In Pakistan, Mr Khan is being investigated for allegedly leaking a diplomatic cipher that the party chief claimed contained the evidence of US involvement in his ouster from power in April last year through a no-confidence vote.

This has further galvanized PTI supporters, as was evident at Senator Van Hollen’s press talks where he was persuaded to respond to several questions about the Cipher controversy and the Biden administration’s alleged role in Pakistani politics.

“The main message is … it’s up to the people of Pakistan to decide their leaders,” said the senator when asked what his message to Pakistani authorities was.

“In order to make sure that the will of the people of Pakistan is heard and reflected, there absolutely need to be fair and free elections.,” he said.

Explaining America’s position on the current political turmoil in Pakistan, he said: “The United States and other democracies, and most of the people of Pakistan have an interest in making sure that the elections are free and fair.”

He said that as a US senator, he was “watching things closely” and felt that “it’s very important … most of all to the people of Pakistan … that there be free and fair elections”.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2023

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