Eleven members of the United States Congress have issued a formal plea to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging the Biden administration to suspend future US assistance to Pakistan. The lawmakers emphasized the importance of restoring constitutional order and conducting free and fair elections in the country before any further support is provided.
Reports from local media highlighted the lawmakers' request for a legal assessment under the "Leahy Laws" and Section 502(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act. They sought clarification on whether US-origin security assistance had contributed to human rights violations in Pakistan.
In their letter, the lawmakers underscored the need for decisive steps towards the restoration of constitutional order, emphasizing the importance of inclusive elections where all parties can freely participate.
The communication also raised concerns about Pakistan's recent efforts to strengthen blasphemy laws, with a warning that these changes could disproportionately impact smaller religious groups and minorities.
Expressing deep apprehension about the passing of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the legislators highlighted its potential to intensify religious persecution, historically associated with the misuse of blasphemy laws against minority communities.
The lawmakers criticized the swift passage of the bill, lacking a thorough parliamentary procedure, and pointed to subsequent incidents, such as the mob attack on churches and homes of Christians in Jaranwala.
The letter also drew attention to reported protests against the bill, including those by the Shia community in Gilgit-Baltistan, emphasizing the ongoing religious persecution in Pakistan. The lawmakers concluded by expressing their profound concern about potential future restrictions on freedom of religion and belief if the bill becomes law.