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In letter to Antony Blinken, US lawmaker highlights ‘human rights, democracy’ issues in Pakistan

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  • Congressman Brad Sherman writes letter to Antony Blinken.
  • Top US diplomat urged to take notice of human rights issues in Pakistan.
  • Blinken requested to urge Pakistani authorities to investigate alleged abuses.

WASHINGTON: Congressman Brad Sherman has written a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighting issues related to human rights and democracy in Pakistan.

In his letter (dated April 12), which he also shared on his official Twitter handle, Sherman while mentioning US support to Pakistan during times of need urged the country’s top diplomat to support human rights in Pakistan as it is also in the US national interest.

“I know human rights are a priority for you, and I recognised your commitment and the Administration’s work on democracy, human rights, and rule of law. The United States does not involve itself in Pakistan’s internal governmental matters — I respect its constitution and its democratic process — but we must not shy away from raising our voice when the human rights of the Pakistani people are at stake,” he wrote.

Sherman, who recently held a telephonic discussion with former prime minister Imran Khan, is among those US lawmakers and influential persons who are now speaking in favour of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) after the party engaged another lobbying firm to project its goals overseas.

In his three-page letter, the congressman asked Antony Blinken to reaffirm the US position that the Pakistani government should respect the right to speak, organise, and demonstrate peacefully.

“It is critical that we see a calm, orderly, democratic, and prosperous Pakistan where Pakistanis can have a free and open political dialogue.”

Sherman wrote: “I am particularly alarmed by incidents over the last year, especially the alleged torture and even sexual abuse of political figures such as former PM Khan’s Chief of Staff Shahbaz Gill and journalist Jameel Farooqui. 

“Thankfully, they both were released, but the chilling effect of their detention and treatment continues to resonate. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for an urgent investigation into Gill’s complaints, citing ‘numerous credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment of political opponents’ in Pakistan during previous governments. HRW also questioned sedition charges against Gill. The April 6 arrest of former minister Ali Amin Gandapur adds to these concerns.”

The lawmaker highlighted numerous cases filed against the PTI chief and the “use of force against his supporters, the detention of protesters under sweeping counter-terrorism laws, and the closing space for free speech”.

Congressman Sherman noted that efforts by the authorities to delay elections in two key provinces are another sign of “skirting” democratic processes and urged Pakistan to respect the Supreme Court ruling that the elections should proceed on a timely basis.

He also asked the secretary of state to form a panel of law experts to review the issue of the election delay verdict of the top court as the government is of the view that the matter should be heard by the full court.

“I will continue to monitor the situation. I ask you to guide the United States-Pakistan policy toward a greater commitment to human rights and to use all US diplomatic channels to urge Pakistani authorities to investigate the alleged abuses and to hold accountable anybody who may be responsible. 

“Most importantly, I urge the authorities to make sure that going forward political figures or citizens who simply want to demonstrate are not subjected to anti-democratic consequences.”

In the concluding para of the letter, Sherman wrote that the US-Pakistani relationship is one of the most important foreign policy relationships and accordingly should reflect US priorities regarding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Pakistan.

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President Asif Zardari emphasizes the importance of offering assistance to the impoverished and middle-income groups in the federal budget.

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President Asif Ali Zardari has emphasized the importance of offering assistance to the impoverished and middle-income individuals in the forthcoming federal budget for the fiscal year 2024-25.

President Asif Ali Zardari expressed these remarks during in a meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The conference was attended by Ahsan Iqbal, the Federal Minister for Planning and Special Initiatives.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday to request complete support from him and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for the next budget approval.

The President pledged to offer complete cooperation in attaining the objectives for the economic and developmental advancement of the nation.

Additionally, please peruse: Overview of the 2024-25 Budget

Both parties engaged in a discussion over the current economic state of the country. In addition, they deliberated on factors regarding the provision of assistance to the general people in the forthcoming budget.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also briefed the president about his recent visit to China. Leaders of nations and governments also deliberated on the development initiatives outlined in the forthcoming budget.

President Asif Ali Zardari emphasized to the Prime Minister the importance of offering assistance to the impoverished and middle-class individuals in the forthcoming federal budget.

The government is set to unveil a budget of Rs. 18 trillion.

It is important to mention that the government is prepared to deliver a federal budget above Rs18,500 billion today (Wednesday).

The government has allotted a sum of Rs2,100 billion for defense expenditures and Rs9,700 billion for interest payments on reserved loans. An allocation of Rs. 1500 billion has been made for development projects.

The budget allocates 253 billion rupees for the energy sector, 827 billion rupees for infrastructure, 800 billion rupees for energy sector subsidy, 206 billion rupees for water resources, and 279 billion rupees for transport and communication. The budget has a GDP growth target of 3.6 percent.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will collect taxes amounting to Rs. 12,970 billion.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has been assigned a tax collection target of 12,970 billion rupees for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) would need to generate an additional revenue of 3,720 billion rupees, with 3,452 billion rupees coming from direct taxes and 267 billion rupees from customs duties, in comparison to the current financial year.

The Inland Revenue’s tax revenue is projected to reach 11,379 billion rupees, with direct taxes accounting for 5,512 billion rupees and income tax contributing 5,454 billion rupees.

The income tax volume has set an extra objective of 1773 billion rupees, bringing the total aim to 2500 billion rupees.

Conversely, the parliamentary party of PPP convened a meeting led by former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. During the meeting, assembly members voiced their apprehensions about the budget and stated that the terms upon which Shehbaz supported the government have yet to be fulfilled.

PPP leader Syed Khurshid Shah expressed his lack of knowledge on the specific details of the budget, as well as the agreements with the IMF and China, during a conversation with the media. In the past, the opposition was consulted, while an ally is not consulted.

The government is presenting a growth-oriented budget today, which amounts to Rs18,900 billion.

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Pakistan

The Prime Minister expressed deep sorrow at the demise of the Vice President of Malawi in an aviation accident.

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Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif conveyed his profound sorrow on the demise of Vice President Saulos Chilima of Malawi in a sad aviation accident.

The prime minister sent his support to the government and citizens of Malawi during this difficult time and offered his condolences to the grieving family.

Saulos Chilima perished in an aviation accident, alongside nine other individuals, as declared by the nation’s President Lazarus Chakwera in a national speech.

The airplane became untraceable after it was unable to successfully touch down at the Mzuzu International Airport, located around 380 kilometers north of the capital city, Lilongwe. Chakwera has announced that the plane wreckage has been found.

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The court authorizes court reporting through the use of the IHC and grants permission to the media.

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The court has authorized the media to report on court proceedings, with adherence to the guidelines specified in a Supreme Court ruling.

The Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued a written ruling granting approval for the plea to delay the hearing of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and instructed that the matter be scheduled for a hearing in the first week of July.

The ruling is a result of petitions submitted by the Islamabad High Court Journalist Association, press association, and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), which contested the PEMRA announcement.

On May 24th, the IHC sent notifications to PEMRA and the information secretary after receiving a petition that questioned the authority’s prohibition on publishing judicial proceedings. The court issued an injunction preventing PEMRA from imposing any disciplinary measures on television channels based on the present notification.

The court has also issued a notice regarding a miscellaneous petition that seeks to completely halt the PEMRA notification. This lawsuit exemplifies the ongoing legal dispute regarding the control of media coverage of court proceedings and the delicate balance between media freedom and the integrity of the judiciary.

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