US Lawmakers Demand Probe Into Pakistan Election-Rigging Allegations

Washington — Thirty-one members of the U.S. Congress recently 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 into allegations of election interference has been conducted. Voters in Pakistan went to polls on February 8.

On election day, mobile services were blocked by Pakistani authorities and there were cases of violence. Many political leaders and activists were arrested in the weeks before the elections. There was an unusual delay in issuing the election results. All these things led to accusations that the vote was rigged.

VOA Urdu Service reporter Iram Abbasi interviewed U.S. Representative Greg Casar, a Texas Democrat, who wrote the letter to Biden.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

VOA: What are the three demands put forward to the White House and State Department in your letter?

U.S. Representative Greg Casar: I’ve led a group of over 30 members of Congress asking the United States and the White House to, one, withhold recognition of the folks that say they won the Pakistani election until an independent investigation is completed, showing that the election was not rigged.

Second, we are urging the release of any of those wrongfully detained for engaging in political free speech or just political activity, because people should be able to be journalists, to be able to be candidates, to be able to be political activists without fear of detention or violence against them.

And lastly, we want to make it very clear that the United States security assistance to the military in Pakistan and, frankly, to the military anywhere in the world, is contingent on following strong human rights standards.


VOA: What motivated you to lead a group of 31 lawmakers to write this letter to the president and Secretary Blinken?

Casar: If we believe in democracy [in] the United States, then we should believe in democracy everywhere, especially when it comes to our allies.

I, myself, have long studied how the United States suppressed democracy in Latin America. Far too often in Latin America, the United States supposedly was leading on democracy but instead let oligarchs, let large corporations, and let military interests override the will of the people.

And so, the United States supported coups, supported military governments and suppressed democracy in Latin America. And that ultimately hurt, not just Latin Americans, but also hurt people in the United States. It did not work. It did not work economically. It did not work for our safety. The same should apply with [the] United States and Pakistan. We should not simply let geopolitics or corporations or our military alliance override our core value of democracy.

VOA: You’ve just said that the U.S. has supported coups around the world. Some would argue that with this letter, you might be asking the U.S. to meddle in the internal politics of Pakistan.

Casar: We are not meddling in those internal politics. In fact, the question is whether or not there was a free and fair election. So, our interest is not whether one group or another group wins an election. The people of Pakistan should be able to decide their own election. … We have very clear laws that aid is contingent on human rights being respected, free speech being respected. We do not want the United States taxpayer dollars to go to militaries that then use that money to incarcerate journalists or suppress free speech or suppress political parties.

VOA: I’ve spoken to the State Department about this previously because these efforts have been made in the past as well. And their stance is that they want the people of Pakistan to decide who their leader should be. What would you say to that?

Casar: I agree that they should have that … we should not meddle in domestic politics and that whoever the people of Pakistan want to be elected by majority vote, that’s who should be elected. So, the question is, did that happen? And there is extensive video evidence, extensive testimony. And in fact, the State Department knows that there are very credible allegations that are on video, of things happening before the election and allegations after the election that are very concerning to the United States, but are also very concerning, even more concerning, to the people of Pakistan. So, I am not saying that we should withhold recognition of a government for no reason. We should only make sure that the will of the people of Pakistan is heard.

VOA: What do you think you would be able to achieve with this letter if the State Department has received such requests in the past? As you said, there are examples of how journalists are being put in jail and how there are several voices in Pakistan who are saying that elections are allegedly rigged. The government denies that. But what do you think you’ll be able to achieve out of it?

Casar: I think if there is an independent and credible investigation into these allegations and it is determined that the elections either were significantly rigged or were not, but the United States and a coalition of nations stands behind whatever the investigation finds — that will be very powerful and very important on the world stage and hopefully will help us get to a more stable and secure and democratic Pakistan, which is good for the entire world, because, as you know, this is a country of over 200 million people. This isn’t a small thing for the world.

VOA: In your letter, there is this notion that there was pre-poll rigging, along with the allegations of election rigging. Your letter seems to include that sentiment toward former Prime Minister Imran Khan, as though he was put in jail for the wrong reasons, or he had not been given a fair trial?

Casar: I believe that everyone deserves a fair trial, and it is so important for him [to receive a fair trial]. … The people of Pakistan want to be able to recognize this and know that their elections are fair and that their leadership was chosen fairly. And so, I think a fair trial for him is important. It’s important for everyone, but it is important, of course, for those political leaders. Again, I have no interest in whether he or anyone else leads Pakistan. That is not our interest in the United States. Pakistan should be able to determine its own domestic politics. 

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