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US lawmakers call for free, fair, monitored polls in Pakistan

Congress members urge oversight of polls by UN

July 28, 2023 1:33 pm

Congressman Brad Sherman. — AFP/File
Congressman Brad Sherman. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: Several lawmakers of the United States, including Congressman Brad Sherman, have called for free, fair, and internationally-monitored general polls in Pakistan.

The demand by members of the Congress came during an event, ‘Status of Human Rights and Democracy in Pakistan’, where critical issues in Pakistan, including human rights violations, missing persons, upcoming general elections, politically-motivated arrests, as well as the significance of free media, and democracy came under discussion.

“This is a difficult time for Pakistan. America is dedicated to the rule of law and democracy, more than we are dedicated to whether this prime minister or that prime minister agrees with us on this or that foreign policy issue,” Congressman Sherman said.

He said that US lawmakers look forward to free, transparent and monitored elections as required by Pakistani law, which he believes is “either in October or early November depending upon how things work out”.

The event — organised by known Pakistani-American Dr Asif Mahmood with Congressmen Sherman and Jim Costa as hosts — was also attended by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters with portraits of journalist Imran Riaz Khan and incarcerated fashion designer Khadija Shah, a dual citizen who was detained by Pakistani police post-May 9 violent incidents, on display.

The event also screened short videos of alleged brutality and the May 9 riots, albeit without audio, as well as Riaz’s family’s appeal to locate and present him before the courts.

Discussing issues facing Pakistan, some US lawmakers urged the government not to try civilians in military courts as well as to repeal or change the blasphemy law.

During the almost two-hour-long event, the Pakistani government was repeatedly urged to announce an election date and allow international monitoring to ensure free, fair and transparent elections.

Congressman Kweisi Mfume even demanded that “the oversight should come from the United Nations.”

Congressman Eric Swalwell, through a letter to the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, said the whereabouts of Riaz should be inquired.

Congressmen Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff and Mike Levin emphasised the need to uphold human rights and standing up for democratic values and freedom of speech.

While Congresswoman Judy Chu declared that the American alliance with Pakistan was important for safety and security in South Asia, she added what was “happening in Pakistan now is a threat to its own security.”

Originally published in The News

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