Some US lawmakers urge Biden, Blinken not to recognize new Pakistan government

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Thirty-one members of the US Congress have signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging them to not recognize a new government in Pakistan until an investigation of election interference has been conducted.

Why is it important?

Voters in Pakistan went to the polls earlier this month in a vote marred by a mobile internet shutdown on election day; arrests and violence in its build-up; and unusually delayed results, leading to accusations that the vote was rigged.

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The United States, Britain and the European Union have expressed concerns about reported election irregularities and urged a probe.

By the numbers

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) agreed to form a coalition government even as candidates backed by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan gained the most seats.

Khan-backed candidates won 93 seats, but did not have the numbers to form a government. He and his party rejected the results of the elections, alleging widespread rigging.

PML-N’s 79 and the PPP’s 54 seats together make a simple majority in parliament to form a government, which, however, will also rope in smaller parties in the coalition.

Key quotes

The letter dated Wednesday urged Biden and Blinken to withhold recognition of a new government in Pakistan until a thorough, transparent, and credible investigation of election interference has been conducted.”

It asked them to “urge Pakistani authorities to release anyone who has been detained for engaging in political speech or activity, and task State Department officials in Pakistan with gathering information about such cases and advocating for their release.”

The letter also urged Biden and Blinken to make clear to Pakistani authorities that Washington could use the leverage for military and other cooperation to be halted if relevant steps were not taken.

Context

The letter signed by 31 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives was led by Representatives Greg Casar and Susan Wild. The signatories included Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Rashida Tlaib, Ro Khanna, Jamie Raskin, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush and Barbara Lee.

Khan was ousted in 2022 after falling out with the country’s powerful military, which denies meddling in politics. His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the 2018 national election.

Multiple legal cases were brought against Khan, which disqualified him as a candidate and sentenced him to long prison terms. He denies wrongdoing.

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