Some US Politicians Urge President Biden To Stop Aid To Pakistan Over 'Rights Abuses', Jailing Of Imran

The news comes as Imran Khan's camp in Pakistan suggested the former prime minister wanted to sue American diplomat Donald Lu in the US

Some US Politicians Urge President Biden To Stop Aid To Pakistan Over 'Rights Abuses', Jailing Of Imran

In what his camp will take as a vote of support and a shot in the arm, the case of former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has been raised by some American politicians in the US, even if Imran Khan mulls legally pursuing US diplomat Donald Lu who conveyed an alleged 'threat' or regime change against him last year.

The revelations come in a new report by US-based digital publication The Intercept, which claimed that 11 US politicians have written to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging him to convince US President Joe Biden to block military aid to Pakistan.

The letter campaign has been led by US Democratic party members, including Rep Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Greg Casar of Texas, Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Summer Lee of Pennsylvania, Andre Carson of Indiana, Ted W Lieu of California, James McGovern of Massachusetts, Dina Titus of Nevada, Lloyd Doggett of Austin Texas, and Cori Bush of St Louis, Missouri.

The letter read that signatories were "unable to ignore the persistent reports of human rights abuses including restrictions on freedom of expression, speech, and religion and belief, as well as enforced disappearances, military courts, and harassment and arrest of political opponents and human rights defenders."

It expressed concerns over the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2023, which has yet to be signed into law. 

The letter referred to how, just days after its passing, the Jaranwala incident unfolded. 

"Religious persecution remains rampant in Pakistan, and we are concerned about future restrictions on freedom of religion and belief should this Bill become law."

It then points to the "ongoing harassment and arrests of political opponents". The political opponents listed in the letter include the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) and human rights defenders who have all been charged with "bogus cases to trample their right to free speech".

"Such acts of harassment do not only impact individuals but deeply traumatise their families," the letter read.

It then pointed to the incarceration of former prime minister Imran Khan and how he was reportedly facing the death penalty (for his trial in the cipher case under the Official Secrets Act 1923). 

The letter also referred to the early morning arrest of lawyer and human rights activist Imaan H Mazari, who represents families of missing people, forced evictions and media freedom.

It noted that a speech at a public rally became the cause of her arrest, and she was charged under anti-terror laws apart from sedition, rebellion against the state and terror financing.

The authors of the letter urged Blinken to review the gross human rights violations in Pakistan and issue a legal determination under the Leahy Laws whereby the State Department can recommend blocking certain funds to Pakistan.

Blinken was also urged to review all other relevant statutes to certify whether US-origin security assistance has been used for gross violation of human rights.

"We further request that future security assistance be withheld until Pakistan has moved decisively toward the restoration of Constitutional order, including by holding free and fair elections in which all parties are able to participate freely," it said.

It also asked the US mission in Islamabad to send observers to hearings and other legal proceedings of human rights defenders and political dissidents, including for emblematic cases such as Imaan Mazari, Khadija Shah and Imran Khan.

"We believe that the United States can play a constructive role in supporting positive change, and it is our hope that our cooperation can contribute to a more just and equitable future for the people of Pakistan," it concluded.

It is pertinent to note that Omar was among the first US politicians to visit Pakistan immediately after Imran Khan's ouster as prime minister in a no-confidence vote. Washington downplayed her visit as "unofficial and personal. " During her four-day visit, she met with then-Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and later former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Moreover, in the aftermath of the violence on May 9, Omar posted a strongly worded statement that expressed deep "concern about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan, including violent clashes that have left at least eight people dead and 300 injured. In recent days, following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan."

She accused the police of having used excessive force against protesters, cut off cell phone service, and restricted social media platforms and how they "fly in the face of basic human rights and democratic values".

The one name that was curiously not on the letter was that of California representative Maxine Waters, a Democrat whose audio call with Imran was leaked.

Imran to sue Donald Lu

Meanwhile, Imran Khan's camp stated that they are mulling plans to sue Donald Lu in the US.

Speaking with the media on Friday, Imran's sister Aleema Khan said that the PTI chief was ready to pursue Lu legally.

"Chairman PTI said if he does not get justice from Pakistani courts, he would move to US courts," said Aleema Khan.