WASHINGTON: US lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to refrain from recognising a new government in Pakistan until allegations of election rigging are thoroughly investigated.

The lawmakers, all Democrats like President Biden, in their joint letter, expressed concerns about pre- and post-poll rigging in Pakistan’s recent parliamentary elections. They have called for a transparent and credible investigation before recognising a new Pakistani government, citing evidence of violations and disruptions on election day.

All 33 signatories are pivotal progressive Democrats essential for securing President Biden’s second term. In the recent Michigan primary, he faced a formidable “uncommitted” campaign led by activists dissatisfied with his Gaza war stance, surpassing Trump’s 2016 margin by over 10,000 votes. This development is causing considerable concern for the Biden camp, especially as influential Muslim lawmakers in Michigan have also endorsed the pro-PTI letter.

Muslim members with influence in Michigan, and who signed the letter, are Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Andre Carson.

Pramila Jayapal, the chai­r­person of the Prog­r­e­ssive Caucus and who often advocates for the Kashmir cause, has endorsed the letter. Additionally, Chair Em­­eritus Barbara Lee and Whip Greg Casar have also added their signatures. Ilhan Omar, serving as the deputy chair of the Caucus, is among the signatories as well.

In addition to urging caution in recognition, the lawmakers called for State Department officials to gather information about detained political activists and media personnel in Pakistan and advocate for their release.

They emphasised the significance of conveying to Pakistani authorities that US law mandates accountability for acts violating human rights, undermining democracy, or fostering corruption.

The lawmakers brought attention to concerns about post-poll rigging, citing delays in reporting results, video evidence of abuses, and discrepancies in vote totals. They referenced re­­ports by nonpartisan obser­vers, which highlighted the necessity of a transparent and credible audit process before acknowledging a new Pakistani government.

The dispute centers arou­­nd discrepancies between polling centre results issu­­ed to candidates and the final constituency-wide tally. The lawmakers noted that respected election monitors, human rights organisations, and Dawn, the nation’s newspaper of record, echoed these findings.

The lawmakers argued that safeguarding democracy in Pakistan and ensuring that election results genuinely reflect the interests of the people, rather than the elite and military, aligns with US interests.

They stressed the importance of a comprehensive in­­­vestigation and adheren­ce to democratic principles.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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