Congressman Brad Sherman has written a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, highlighting human rights and democracy issues in Pakistan. Sherman urged Blinken to reaffirm Washington’s support that Islamabad should respect the right to speak, organise, and demonstrate peacefully. The letter mentioned several alleged cases of human rights violations in Pakistan, including cases against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and the media ban on his speeches, detention of protesters, the alleged torture of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill and journalist Jameel Farooqui, and the recent arrest of PTI leader Ali Amin Gandapur. Sherman called on Blinken to form a panel of law experts to review the issue of the election delay verdict of the top court, as the government is of the view that the matter should be heard by the full court.
In the letter, Sherman said that the US-Pakistan relationship is one of the most important foreign policy relationships, and it should reflect US priorities regarding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Pakistan. He expressed concern about the delay in Punjab and KP elections, terming it “another sign of skirting democratic processes”. He mentioned Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah’s statement that “either he (Imran) will be eliminated from the political arena or us (PML-N)”.
Sherman also recalled Human Rights Watch’s statement asking for “urgent investigations into Mr Gill’s complaints” and questioning sedition charges against him. Regarding the ban on broadcasting Imran’s speeches, Sherman recalled Amnesty International’s statement that called it a “disturbing demonstration of targeting critical voices”. The letter also listed various other “concerns about conduct by the government or its agents” such as extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, political prisoners, serious restrictions on internet freedom, substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly, severe restrictions of religious freedom, threats of violence targeting LGBT+ persons among others.
Sherman asked Blinken to guide the US-Pakistan policy toward a greater commitment to human rights and to use all US diplomatic channels to urge Pakistani authorities to investigate the alleged abuses and hold accountable anybody who may be responsible. He urged the authorities to ensure that political figures or citizens who simply want to demonstrate are not subjected to anti-democratic consequences in the future.
In conclusion, Congressman Sherman’s letter highlights the ongoing human rights and democracy issues in Pakistan, calling on the US to reaffirm its support for human rights and democracy in the country. The letter emphasizes that the US-Pakistan relationship should reflect US priorities regarding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Pakistan, and urges Pakistani authorities to investigate alleged abuses and hold accountable anybody who may be responsible.