Washington, Nov 19
Eleven members of the US Congress, in a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have urged the Biden administration to withhold future US assistance to Pakistan, until the country restores constitutional order and holds free and fair elections, local media reported
The lawmakers requested a legal determination from the Department of State under the "Leahy Laws" and Section 502(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act to assess if US-origin security assistance had facilitated human rights violations in Pakistan, Dawn reported.
"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.
The country's move 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, Dawn reported.
"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," the lawmakers wrote.
They pointed out that the bill, which is yet to be signed by the president, was "passed in haste despite repeated calls from many lawmakers for a thorough parliamentary procedure."
The letter also pointed out that on August 16, eight days after the bill was passed, a mob desecrated churches and set fire to homes of Christians in Jaranwala. It also referred to reported protests against the bill, including by the Shia community in Gilgit-Baltistan, Dawn reported.
"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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