Islamabad, November 19
A group of 11 influential US lawmakers have urged the Biden administration to withhold future assistance to Pakistan until Islamabad restores constitutional order and holds free and fair elections, it emerged on Sunday.
In a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the lawmakers, which included Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is one of the champions of Muslim causes in the US Congress, requested the state department to assess if US-origin security assistance had facilitated human rights violations in Pakistan. “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,” they wrote.
Pakistan’s moves to further strengthen the blasphemy law also figured prominently in the letter, which warned Secretary Blinken that the proposed changes would be used to further tighten the noose around smaller religious groups and minorities, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Seek restoration of constitutional order and rollback of blasphemy law changes in Pakistan, the Congress members said, “We are extremely concerned about the passing of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2023 which will strengthen the existing blasphemy law, which has historically been used to persecute religious minorities.”
In the letter, the US lawmakers pointed out that the bill, which is yet to be signed by President Joe Biden, was “passed in haste despite repeated calls from many lawmakers for a thorough parliamentary procedure”.
“Religious persecution remains rampant in Pakistan, and we are concerned about future restrictions on freedom of religion and belief should this Bill become law,” the lawmakers warned.
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