More Former US Officials Express Concern over Fascism in Pakistan

By A Correspondent
Hundreds of thousands of Khan’s supporters have been demanding fresh elections, as mandated by Pakistan’s constitution. But the military-backed government has resisted such demands. (Photo via video stream)
As Pakistan descends into chaos, criticism of Pakistan’s army chief is becoming louder in the United States. Hours after 65 members of the US Congress wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to press Islamabad on growing human rights violations, Zalmay Khalilzad, a former top US diplomat, took to Twitter, again, sharply criticizing General Munir’s conduct in the ongoing crisis in the nuclear-armed country.

I was concerned for #Pakistan before, but a recent speech by the Army Chief has led me to believe that things are truly dire. His closed-door angry tirade to senior officers in Sialkot has been reliably shared with me,” Khalizad said in a series of Tweets. 

He said General Munir’s entire speech was “alarming” but to him, two points stood out. “First, he threatened the wives and children of his critics. The May 9 violence was not a good thing and should be transparently investigated, but that is no excuse for threatening harm to innocent family members of retired officers who may have participated,” said the former US diplomat who brokered the 2020 US-Taliban Doha peace agreement, which lead to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Khalilzad accused Pakistan’s military chief of using what he called “gutter language in talking about those he regards as his enemies”, adding: “Second, he announced that if he “goes down” he will take others down with him.”

Khalilzad added: “His speech demonstrates that he simply does not have the temperament to lead the armed forces of a large and important country, Pakistan. Such a volatile, angry and self-absorbed person must not have his finger on a nuclear button,” he added.

Khalilzad said: “A country’s army is a critical institution that must be led by someone possessed of sobriety, calm responsibility, and political neutrality.” Khalizad has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of Pakistan’s army chief since the political crisis aggravated in Islamabad in recent weeks.

In an interview with Dawn newspaper that appeared on ay 19, Khalilzad said instability in Pakistan could destabilize the entire region. The Biden administration has distanced itself from Khalizad’s Twitter campaign, calling them his “personal views”.

Khalilzad is not alone in expressing concern over instability in Pakistan. Another former senior US official and National Security Advisor to former president Donald Trump,  John Bolton also took to Twitter to admonish Pakistan’s military over its treatment of former prime minister Imran Khan.

“The US has critical interests in Pakistan in Pakistan. Continued instability and violence are not in anyone’s interests,” Bolton said in a tweet. “The treatment of Pakistan’s former premier Imran Khan hinders relations and raises tensions. Civilians should not be tried in military courts where they have no access to basic rights,” Bolton added.

Bolton is the senior-most former US official to come forward and express concern over the unfolding human rights disaster and rising fascism in a country the US has traditionally considered important to its strategic interests. Pakistan has seen a dramatic escalation in crisis as the police and the military are being accused of conducting a relentless war on democracy, human rights, and press freedom. Reports of forced disappearances and violence against women political workers and journalists have become a daily occurrence with courts facing unprecedented pressure allegedly from the government and the military.

Thousands of workers of Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf have been arrested over the past few weeks. PTI and sections of the media, especially the ones based outside Pakistan, have accused the police and security agencies of using violence against political workers, especially females. Even the family of the former chief of the military General Asif Nawaz Janjua, who died under questionable circumstances in 1993 while jogging in Rawalpindi, was not spared. According to Veterans of Pakistan, an organization of retired military officers, General Janjua’s family was picked up by Punjab police from their residence in Lahore Cantonment and detained overnight.

“This is an atrocious act violating fundamental rights in the constitution and also many international conventions Pakistan is signatory to,” the organization said in a statement released on Twitter.

Senior journalist Imran Riaz Khan, a known critic of the government and the military-led establishment, was also arrested by police and then was allegedly abducted by the security agencies on May 11. Police say Khan is not in its custody but has failed to produce despite court orders.

Khan’s father, Mohammad Riaz, pled his case before Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti on ay 19, saying, “For God’s sake, have some mercy on your country. Don’t play with the law.”

“It is clear as day. Everyone in this court is aware … All of them know that they handed [him] over,” he added without naming anyone. Police, however, failed to give any update on the missing journalist’s whereabouts. Journalists fear that Khan’s life may be in danger. Another senior journalist and a known critic of the government and the military Arshad Sharif was killed in Kenya last October. Pakistan’s government has failed to register the first information report in the journalist’s murder. The slain journalist’s supporters and family point an accusing finger at the military, which has denied any role in the incident. Several senior journalists and known critics of the government, including Dr Moeed Pirzada, Sabir Shakir and Wajahat Saeed Khan have moved out of Pakistan in recent months because of serious threats to their lives in the country.

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