UNITED NATIONS: The United States will continue to support credible elections in Pakistan that are free of violence and allow people to decide who rules them, says Elizabeth Horst, the US Deputy Secretary of State Responsible for Pakistan.
Addressing a seminar at One UN Plaza, Ms Horst also urged Pakistan to continue to implement the reforms suggested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as that’s the only way to stabilise its ailing economy.
Ms Horst, Ambassador Robin Raphel, a former State Department official, and other scholars made these remarks while addressing a day-long seminar on “Exploring the Pillars of Democracy: US-Pakistan Relations”.
It was a side event of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly and its proceedings were made available to Dawn.
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Ms Horst, who represented the US administration at the discussion, exp­lained that the departure of US forces from Afghanistan allowed the United States to look at the relationship with Pakistan as what it was, “a bilateral relationship”. This relationship, she added, covered key aspects like economic security and the political situation.
“US remains a supporter of Pakistan’s democracy, but it does not support any particular person or party,” she said while addressing the political side of this relationship.
“We support the people of Pakistan having the right to choose their next government,” she said. “Ambassador (Donald) Blome has delivered this message to all institutions and all parties, and I have delivered the same message.”
Mr Blome, the US ambassador in Islamabad, recently held a series of meetings with Pakistani officials, political leaders and with members of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
“It’s critical that the people get to decide and that political parties are responsive to the people,” Ms Horst said, adding: “We will be continuing to support Pakistan’s democracy, which includes credible elections, according to the country’s laws and the Constitution.”
The elections, she said, should be free of violence, have open competition, and a free media should be allowed to cover the electoral process.
The US officials, however, pointed out that “democracy also goes beyond elections” and that’s why America’s friendship with Pakistan includes having “really strong conversations” about freedom of religion, abuses of the blasphemy law, and minorities’ right to worship without fear. “And that’s an important part of the democratic process,” she added.
The United States, she said, would continue to deliver those messages to Pakistan while remaining “optimist about what the US and Pakistan can do together.”
Ambassador Raphel, who is con­­si­dered Pakistan’s strongest supporter in Washington by the Pakistani American community, said she blames all sides for the current political crisis in the country.
“The vote of no confidence did not work out as planned. The PTI became too cocky and boisterous in its rhetoric and street power and everyone provoked everyone,” she said.
“The result was violent rioting and the destruction of property and then an unprecedented crackdown on democratic norms of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech and rule of law.”