Congressional hearings on Pakistan



Mohammad Jamil

CONGRESSIONAL hearing is often a tool in the hands of the US government to raise the bogey of human rights violations against the countries that refuse to toe the American line. As regards Pakistan, main focus of the Congressional hearings has been to coerce Pakistan into ‘doing more’ and come up to the US expectations. It is mainly meant to pressurize Pakistan into accepting US dictates through economic penalties and isolating it diplomatically. In a recent Congressional hearing, the participants supported the move with their pre-conceived ideas and attempted to mobilize the media to advance their agenda.
According to a report by a private media outlet, and also pro-government media in the US, the alleged disappearances of political activists in Pakistan surfaced in a US Congress Sub-Committee in February 2018, as lawmakers urged the Trump Administration to raise this issue with Islamabad. At this special hearing of the House Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific, lawmakers also accused Pakistan of continuing to allow Afghan extremists to destabilize the government in Kabul, a charge raised at a Senate hearing a day before the above hearing. The lawmakers also backed President Donald Trump’s January 4, 2018 decision to suspend security assistance to Pakistan. As relations between the two countries are strained, US lawmakers, think-tanks and media too have started taking a keen interest in Pakistan’s domestic politics, highlighting the grievances of smaller political, religious and ethnic groups. Such groups have also become active in the US capital and other cities, holding protest meetings and marches. Although such meetings are always tiny, the dissidents are often invited to air their views at larger congressional meetings and media platforms. But Congressional hearings like one held in February are rare.
A critical inquiry into history of Pakistan-US relations revealed that this relationship had been based more on the US vested interests than the Pakistan’s concerns or interests. The economy of Pakistan has directly and indirectly suffered a whopping figure of 123 billion US Dollars, and more than 6000 soldiers and about 65000 civilians including women and children have been martyred in planned attacks and suicide attacks by terrorists. India and the US have serious reservations on the CEPC project for obvious reasons. The objective of the US to keep the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan in turmoil is to extend the US influence to ex-Soviet Republics of Central Asia. US frustration over Afghanistan is obvious, as after 17 years of war there is nothing to show to the US public in general and the world in particular.
There have been 2,386 US military deaths in the war in Afghanistan. In addition, there were 1,173 US civilian contractor fatalities. The US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has cost taxpayers a total of 2.4 trillion USD by end of 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money. More such Congressional hearings and similar forums are predicted in the near future where “harping of the same tune” will be repeated to strengthen the pre-conceived narrative against Pakistan. In June 2015, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee in the US Congress chaired a meeting in which, what they said, evidence of the repression faced by the Baloch community was presented. Speakers from the Canadian and European Parliaments, as well as Baloch leaders, shed light on the injustice and oppression perpetrated by the Pakistani Government.
US Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, who was the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee, presided over a meeting in which alleged acts of repression in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province was taken up. The meeting on Capitol Hill was attended by representatives of the Jura and the Balochistan House, and the highlight of it was the issue of minority rights in Pakistan. Among the prominent speakers were Canadian MP and Jura Chairman Russ Hiebert, Italian Member of the European Parliament Elisabetta Gardini, Executive Director of Balochistan House, Tarek Fatah and Baloch leader and activist Mehran Baloch. In his remarks, Hiebert highlighted the injustice and oppression faced by the people of Balochistan at the hands of their own government. On 13th October 2017, two anti-Pakistan US Congressmen namely Dana Rohrabacher and Brad Sherman repeated their anti-Pakistan rhetoric during the meeting of US House of Representatives.
Brad Sherman alleged human rights violations/disappearances in Sindh, while Dana Rohrabacher alleged atrocities committed by Pakistan Army in East Pakistan and resultantly Bangladesh emerged. In August 2017, Congressman Brad Sherman had sent a letter to Alice G. Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs and David Hale, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, expressing strong concerns about human rights violations in Sindh. On 17th February 2012, US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher had introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives, calling upon Pakistan to recognize the Baloch right to self- determination. The motion had been co-sponsored by House Representatives Louie Gohmert and Steve King. The proposed bill had favoured Baloch rights of self-determination and suggested to afford people of Balochistan an opportunity to choose their own status of a sovereign state. Such resolutions moved by a tiny minority may not have any importance, but they bring Pakistan and its institutions into disrepute. This Great Game of US strategic map-makers has been in full play in Balochistan province for quite some time. World maps, showing Pakistan all splintered up, and Balochistan province merging with Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan region making a Greater Balochistan, were published. But situation in Balochistan has been addressed at political level; and an elected govt is in place.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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