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Brad Sherman pens letter to Blinken

US Congressman urges Biden administration to raise voice against HR abuses, PTI’s ‘political victimisation’ Voices concern over Sanaullah’s statement about elimination of Khan from political arena

Urges US to ‘guide Pakistan policy toward a greater commitment to human rights’

Fawad hails Sherman’s letter, urges EU, UK parliamentarians to raise issue of HR abuses as well

ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a much-needed move, the US Congressman Brad Sherman urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to support democracy and human rights in the country; sounding alarm over what he said, the “custodial torture and sexual abuse of political figures” in the country.

In a letter to the Secretary of State, the US Congressman voiced serious concerns over “democracy, human rights, rule of law” violations in Pakistan and political victimization of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The California lawmaker has asked Biden administration 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 to hold accountable anybody who may be responsible”.

“I urge the authorities to make sure that going forward political figures or citizens who simply want to demonstrate are not subjected to anti-democratic consequences,” he said.

Sherman made special mention of the “several cases” registered against PTI chief Imran Khan, “the alleged torture and even sexual abuse of political figures” like Shahbaz Gill and journalist Jameel Farooqui, “the use of force” against Imran’s supporters, “the detention of protestors under sweeping counter-terrorism laws” as well as the “closing of space for free speech” and the recent arrest of PTI leader Ali Amin Gandapur.

He also expressed deep concern over Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah’s remarks for “insinuating” that the PTI chief “will be eliminated from the political arena.

Further, the letter also took note of the delay in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections calling it “another sign of skirting democratic processes”.

On the matter of election delay, Sherman mentioned the government’s demand for a full-court bench and said “scholars argue that such an en banc review is not called for by Pakistani law”. He added it “would be helpful if the foreign law experts at the State Department could confirm this conclusion”.

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.

“The United States does not involve itself in Pakistan’s internal governmental matters — I respect its Constitution and its democratic process — but we must not shy away from raising our voice when the human rights of the Pakistani people are at stake,” he said.

It recalled Human Rights Watch’s statement asking for “urgent investigations into Gill’s complaints” and questioning sedition charges against him.

Regarding the ban on broadcasting Imran’s speeches, Sherman also recalled Amnesty International’s statement that called it a “disturbing demonstration of targeting critical voices”.

Meanwhile, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry hailed Sherman’s letter, saying: “Letter by a senior member of USA Congress Foreign Affairs committee to Secretary Blinken shows the growing concerns of international community on the HR abuses in Pakistan by a fascist government.”

He called on the European Union and United Kingdom parliamentarians to “raise the issue of human rights abuses in their jurisdictions as well”.

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