WASHINGTON — Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, called on the members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday to investigate electoral irregularities and violence that took place in the recent election in Pakistan on February 8, 2024.

The United States and international election monitors have raised concerns about pre-election and election-day irregularities, including disproportionate limitations on freedom of expression and assembly, attacks on journalists and limitations on internet and telecom services.

“In addition to promoting democratic values, supporting Pakistan’s economy is a key strategic goal of our bilateral relationship,” said Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn.

Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau for South and Central Asian Affairs, testified in front of Congress, stating that after the day of the elections, the State Department issued a clear statement condemning electoral violence, human rights violations, media attacks, internet and telecommunication restrictions and allegations of interference in the electoral process, urging a full investigation.

“Second, We’re very focused on economic stability for Pakistan and for Pakistan to deal with its social terrorism and political issues,” said Lu.

Chairman Joe Wilson cross-examined the accusations against Imran Khan, claiming that the U.S. government was involved in removing Khan from power. Lu stated that there was no such involvement from the U.S. and that it was just a conspiracy theory. “The then-ambassador of Pakistan to the United States has testified to his government that there was no conspiracy. We respect the sovereignty of Pakistan,” said Lu.

During the hearing, observers shouted “liar” and “free Iman Khan, the only democratic prime minister,” and seemed dissatisfied with Donald Lu’s testimony. Capitol Police escorted the protestors from the hearing room.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., questioned the impartiality of the Pakistani judicial system. He raised concerns about the treatment of American citizens, including Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who has been jailed for over 14 years without charge. Emphasizing the importance of prioritizing human rights in Pakistan, he called for the American ambassador to visit and the president to take action.

“That’s the same judicial system with Dr. Afridi in jail for 14 years. For getting bin Laden. Do we have faith that Imran Khan has not been the victim of selective prosecution?” Sherman said.

McCaul stated that Pakistan is experiencing substantial economic issues, such as record inflation and foreign debt, and its domestic condition is catastrophic. He also maintained human rights in Pakistan must be protected for democracy to flourish. He says the United States and Pakistan must continue to work together to combat terrorism and promote regional stability.

“We also know that if the United States falls away from our relationship with Pakistan, the Chinese Communist Party will gain even more influence,” said McCaul. “CCP is only interested in a one-way relationship of debt trap diplomacy and Pakistan [is] the ground zero for the Belt and Road Initiative.” 

The ranking members of the committee urged Pakistan’s government and Election Commission to investigate interference and fraud in the recent election with complete transparency and hold those responsible accountable.