Influential US Lawmakers Urge Biden Administration to Hold Pakistan Accountable for Human Rights Violations and Blasphemy Law
A group of US lawmakers, including Ilhan Omar, call on the Biden administration to withhold aid to Pakistan until free and fair elections are held, human rights violations are addressed, and religious minorities are protected. The outcomes of this request on US-Pakistan relations remain uncertain.
A group of 11 influential US lawmakers, including Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, has urged the Biden administration to withhold future assistance to Pakistan until the country holds free and fair elections and restores constitutional order. In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the lawmakers requested a legal determination from the Department of State to assess if US-origin security assistance had facilitated human rights violations in Pakistan. They also highlighted Pakistan's move to further strengthen the blasphemy law, warning that the proposed changes would be used to oppress religious minorities.
The lawmakers expressed concern about the passing of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which strengthens the existing blasphemy law historically used to persecute religious minorities. The bill is yet to be signed by President Joe Biden. The lawmakers also emphasized the need to address issues such as restrictions on freedom of expression, speech, and religion, enforced disappearances, military courts, and the harassment and arrest of political opponents and human rights defenders.
They pointed out cases against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chief Imran Khan, who could potentially face the death penalty for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act, and human rights lawyer Imaan Mazari, who was taken from her home without an arrest warrant. The letter urged the US Embassy in Islamabad to send observers to hearings and legal proceedings of human rights defenders and political dissidents. The lawmakers offered to work with Secretary Blinken to promote human rights, democracy, and stability in Pakistan. However, it remains unclear how the US government will respond to these concerns and if it will impact the dynamics of the US-Pakistan relationship.