The Foreign Office on Thursday said that concerns raised over the Feb 8 general elections during a US Congressional hearing “reflected a misunderstanding” of the country’s domestic situation and electoral laws.

The comments come a day after US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu told a Congressional panel that if the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) failed to investigate allegations of irregularities in the Feb 8 elections, it will “retard” America’s relationship with Pakistan.

Asked if the ECP’s failure to investigate irregularities would impact US-Pakistan relations, Lu had said it would be an impediment to the relationship of 76 years if Pakistan did not have a democratic process that upholds its own Constitution.

“It will retard our ability to have the type of relationship we want, in security matters, on [the] business front and people to people. All that suffers if Pakistan is not a full democracy,” the diplomat had replied.

“We have never used the term ‘free and fair’ in characterising these elections,” Lu had said in response to a question from Congressman August Pfluger, a Texas Republican.

Responding to a query during a weekly media briefing today, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said “some statements made there (during the hearing) reflected [a] misunderstanding of Pakistan’s domestic situation and electoral laws”.

According to state broadcaster Radio Pakistan, the spokesperson expressed the hope to “engage in meaningful discussion with the United States to address these misunderstandings”.

Zahra emphasised that Pakistan valued its close relations with the US and believed in constructive engagement with it.

While noting that Pakistan respected the prerogative of legislative bodies to discuss international issues, she stressed that “the deliberations of these legislative bodies should contribute [to] promoting positive dynamics in bilateral ties based on mutual respect and understanding”.

Lu ‘denying everything’ about cipher meeting: Gohar

It should be mentioned that Lu is the diplomat whose supposed warning to former Pakistan Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed was the subject of a cipher sent by the envoy to Islamabad.

The same document was the basis of ex-premier Imran Khan’s allegation of a US conspiracy to oust his government in 2022. The PTI founder is currently on trial for mishandling the same confidential document.

During the US Congressional hearing on Wednesday, Lu termed the allegations against him by Imran — the crux of the ‘cablegate’ cipher controversy — as a “conspiracy theory, lie and complete falsehood”.

When asked if the election results would have been different if alleged irregularities were not committed, Lu said that was for the ECP to decide. However, the diplomat agreed with the suggestion that the ECP should hold re-election if it found evidence of substantial rigging in some constituencies.

“The US does not go around recognising new governments,” he said, when Congressman Greg Casar, a Texas Democrat, asked him if Washington recognises the new government in Pakistan. The US administration, he said, works with the government in power.

Commenting on Lu’s remarks about the cipher, PTI’s Barrister Gohar Khan termed them a “complete lie”. Speaking to the media in Rawalpindi, he alleged that the US diplomat “denied everything” about his meeting with Majeed.

 Gohar Khan speaks to media in Rawalpindi. — DawnNewsTV
Gohar Khan speaks to media in Rawalpindi. — DawnNewsTV

Noting that it had been almost 20 hours since the hearing, Gohar highlighted that there had been no statement from Majeed on Lu’s testimony. He called for a “re-investigation” of the matter, adding that PTI founder Imran Khan had “demanded it strongly”.

“We call on Asad Majeed to give his statement and to reject what he said that there was no meeting,” the PTI MNA said.

“A conspiracy was indeed carried out against Pakistan, and a day later, the no-confidence motion was moved,” Gohar said, echoing Imran’s stance on the cipher.

“In his statement, Asad Majeed says ‘I had a meeting and these were the contents’. [However,] Donald Lu says that no such thing happened,” he said.

“He (Lu) is denying everything, which is why we are saying that if this is the case, then Asad Majeed should clarify this again,” the PTI chairman added.

About Lu’s comments on the general elections, Gohar highlighted that the diplomat said the US “never used the words ‘free and fair’ for the elections”.

US hearing ‘blatant intervention’: Raza Rabbani

Separately, former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani termed the US Congressional hearing a “blatant intervention in the internal affairs” of Pakistan.

In a statement issued today, he said, “Taking up the issue of general elections in Pakistan is a blatant intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign country.”

The seasoned politician said, “My head as a proud Pakistani, citizen of a free and sovereign country, hung in shame as I watched the proceedings of the subcommittee of the US House yesterday.”

“The proceedings left an impression that Pakistan is not even a client state but one of the states of the USA,” he said.

He expressed the concern that “if today interference in internal affairs of Pakistan goes unnoticed, tomorrow it can be matters of our national security that can be taken”.

“Bartering of our financial sovereignty to the IMF does not mean that we have become a client state of the West and any country can meddle in our internal affairs,” Rabbani asserted.

Noting that elections had been held in other countries as well but were not brought into question, he urged the Foreign Ministry to take a “belated notice and, warn the US against such intervention.”

“If it is a question of an elected House acting on its own, then tomorrow our Parliament should discuss the US policy on Palestinians, which is creating a destabilising effect in the world, or the various proceedings against Trump,” Rabbani said.

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