The Foreign Office (FO) on Wednesday said that a resolution passed by the US House of Representatives in support of democracy in Pakistan stemmed from an “incomplete understanding” of the country’s political situation and electoral process.

In a significant display of bipartisan support, the US House of Representatives has passed a resolution expressing robust support for democracy in Pakistan by an overwhelming 368-7 vote.

Lawmakers supporting resolution HR 901, titled ‘Expressing support for democracy and human rights in Pakistan’, claimed that the approval highlighted the United States’ commitment to promoting democratic values globally.

The resolution — passed with 85 per cent of House members participating and 98pc voting in its favour — urged US President Joe Biden to collaborate with Pakistan in upholding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

It emphasised the importance of free and fair elections, calling for a thorough and independent investigation into any claims of interference or irregularities in Pakistan’s 2024 elections.

HR 901 also condemned efforts to suppress democratic participation in Pakistan. It specifically denounced harassment, intimidation, violence, arbitrary detention, and restrictions on internet access, as well as any violations of human, civil, or political rights.

The decisive vote underscored the House’s commitment to supporting democratic institutions and human rights in Pakistan, marking a notable moment in US foreign policy.

Congressman Rich McCormick, a Georgia Republican, sponsored the resolution. Congressman Daniel Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan, co-sponsored it. The original resolution was introduced in the House on Nov 30, 2023 and the text was amended on June 18 this year.

“We believe that the timing and context of this particular resolution does not align well with the positive dynamics of our bilateral ties,” FO said in a statement released later in the day.

“Pakistan […] is committed to the values of constitutionalism, human rights and rule of law in pursuance of our own national interest,” FO said.

“We believe in constructive dialogue and engagement based on mutual respect and understanding,” it said, adding that such resolutions were neither constructive nor objective.

“We hope that the US Congress will play a supportive role in strengthening Pakistan-US ties and focus on avenues of mutual collaboration that benefit both our peoples and countries,” it said.

Michael Kugelman, a scholar of South Asian Affairs at Washington’s Wilson Center, said that the resolution will not have much impact on the Biden administration’s policy toward Pakistan as the administration itself has called for an investigation into election irregularities.

“But the vote does raise questions about what additional legislation we could see regarding Pakistan,” he added.

The passage electrified Imran’s supporters in the US, who clogged social media with their comments. The PTI also shared the development on X.

One of them, who identified himself only as ‘Bol Kay lab Azad’, wrote: “It indicates that US lawmakers oppose the State Department’s endeavors to bring about regime change and promote tyranny globally.”

Another, who identified himself as a ‘Musketeer’, wrote that the resolution will not have much of an impact “unless implemented through the IMF”.

Another, who identified himself as ‘IK Forever’ wanted to know “if the resolution would now be put before the US Senate?”

Yet another commentator, who claimed to be a ‘Reformer’, suggested “translating HR 901 into financial and travel sanctions” on the Pakistani government, its supporters, and sponsors.

The text of the amended resolution:

Expressing support for democracy and human rights in Pakistan.

Whereas Pakistan is an important and valued partner of the United States;

Whereas, on December 10, 1948, Pakistan became one of the original signatories to, and supported the creation of, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR);

Whereas, on June 23, 2010, Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

Whereas, following the end of the most recent period of military rule in 2008, Pakistan completed its first peaceful transition of power between civilian governments led by different political parties in 2013, but the military continues to exert undue influence on the politics of the country;

Whereas, during previous elections, most recently in 2018, election monitors expressed concern about constraints on the freedom of expression and freedom of association and noted allegations of influence by the military-led establishment on the electoral process;

Whereas the Department of State’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices has often highlighted significant human rights issues in Pakistan across multiple years, including unlawful, arbitrary, and extrajudicial killings, forced disappearance and arbitrary detention by the state or its agents, the taking of political prisoners, serious restrictions on free expression and media, and substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association;

Whereas, on April 9, 2022, the National Assembly voted to remove Imran Khan as Prime Minister through a vote of no-confidence motion;

Whereas, on August 10, 2023, President Arif Alvi dissolved Pakistan’s National Assembly on the advice of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to allow for new elections, although the Election Commission of Pakistan subsequently announced the postponement of elections until February 2024 to redraw constituencies of the National Assembly to reflect the 2023 Census;

Whereas, on September 1, 2023, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said the Government was committed to safeguarding and upholding the rights of all its citizens, and that the Government would provide constitutional continuity till the next general elections are held in the country;

Whereas, on February 8, 2024, millions of Pakistanis participated in Pakistan’s general election, with record numbers of women, youth, and members of religious and ethnic minority groups registered to vote;

Whereas Pakistan’s 2024 general election was marked by allegations by credible international and local observers of interference in the electoral process, including electoral violence, intimidation, arrest of political actors, restrictions to freedom of assembly, restrictions on freedom of expression, and restrictions on access to the internet and telecommunications;

Whereas, on February 9, 2024, the Department of State noted that it shared the assessment of observers that the election included undue restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, condemned electoral violence as well as restrictions on the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and called for the full investigation of fraud or interference in Pakistan’s general elections;

Whereas the Constitution of Pakistan states that the Federal Government shall have control and command of the Armed Forces, and the oath taken by members of the Armed Forces swears they will uphold the Constitution and not engage in any political activities;

Whereas an essential safeguard of democracy is civilian command and control of apolitical military and security forces; and

Whereas democracy, development, rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) affirms its strong support for democracy in Pakistan, including free and fair elections reflecting the will of the people of Pakistan;

(2) calls on the President and the Secretary of State to strengthen engagement with the Government of Pakistan to ensure democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are upheld;

(3) urges the Government of Pakistan to uphold democratic and electoral institutions, human rights, and the rule of law, and respect the fundamental guarantees of due process, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech of the people of Pakistan;

(4) condemns attempts to suppress the people of Pakistan’s participation in their democracy, including through harassment, intimidation, violence, arbitrary detention, restrictions on access to the internet and telecommunications, or any violation of their human, civil, or political rights;

(5) condemns any effort to subvert the political, electoral, or judicial processes of Pakistan; and

(6) urges the full and independent investigation of claims of interference or irregularities in Pakistan’s February 2024 election.

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