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Thursday, May 23, 2024

America suffered by supporting Generals: Congressman Greg Casar, Interview with Moeed Pirzada

In Casar Letter, signed by 31 Congressmen, to President Biden, Biden Administration has been asked to withhold recognition of new Govt in Pakistan till the complete audit of Feb Election Results.

On March 04,  Dr. Moeed Pirzada, Editor GVS news,  sits in with Congressman, Greg Casar, who argues that American interests have suffered because of US support to military dictators, voice of Pakistani people is important and 30 Congressmen with him will continue to follow up on Pakistani situation as soon he reaches back into Washington. In Casar Letter, signed by 31 Congressmen, to President Biden, Biden Administration has been asked to withhold recognition of new Govt in Pakistan till the complete audit of Feb Election Results.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: I’m gonna come this is more up rather, today I have the privilege of inviting Congressman Greg Casar to this discussion. Congressman, as you know, is an honorable member of the US House of Representatives from the 35th congressional district, Texas, from the beautiful city of Austin. Congressman, I’m so glad and I’m thankful to you, and especially your team, for finding time on a Sunday morning. And I know that you have a very hectic traveling schedule, you’re continuously traveling. So, thank you so much.

Greg Casar: Thank you so much for having me. It’s just such an important discussion. And so, looking forward to speaking with you.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : Congressman, I start by congratulating you and Congresswoman Susan Wilde, for this for this letter to the President of United States and the Secretary of State Tony Blinken. The letter is bold. It takes a very principled stand on democracy in Pakistan. We have seen that such letters such initiatives really take weeks and months to develop and gather weight. But in this case, and within three to four days, you and your team were able to obtain 31 signatures and the letter was submitted to the President Biden and to the secretary. How come this initiative took place?

 Greg Casar: Well, we know that democracy across the world, but especially within countries that are allied with the United States is so important for people or stability for the global economy for all of us. And Pakistan is, of course critical, in all those ways, a huge country of enormous importance that the United States has backed. But we want to make sure that our dollars and our ally ship is actually supporting democracy, not undermining it. And we were able to gather those 31 signatures in just a few days, because this has actually been building for months, because people that have been brave enough to speak out in Pakistan, despite repression, people that have been speaking out in the United States from the Pakistani diaspora who are throughout our country, but many people in Texas have been educating members of Congress pretty consistently and working really hard at it for many months, so that we could quickly respond after these elections. And after these allegations of rigging, with this letter, really pushing the State Department to say we should withhold recognition of a new government until there is independent and credible investigation that the election was not rigged.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : Congressman, I wanted to come on this. I would like also like to tell you that I’ve been talking to the Pakistani community in Austin, for instance, Mr. Tariq Majeed and his team and also Atif Khan and to Sajjad Barqi and the impression I have is the community over there, the Pakistani American community is very grateful to you, I mean, the greatly appreciate your efforts, which you have been doing continuously, since I think, almost a year for the cause of democracy in Pakistan. And but you at the same time, you know that they are extremely anxious. I mean, they have the families, they have businesses, they have the people working for them back in Pakistan, they are very concerned for the nature and direction of political change within Pakistan, in which in fact, one of the most important elections in the history of Pakistan in which people turned up in such large numbers, and the total Mandate has been stolen. So, the question I have is that, have you? In your letter you had requested the first important condition was that you wanted the US and the State Department to withhold recognition of the new governmental audit or investigation of the election results now. Now, today a few hours ago, the former prime minister has once again been reelected. Now the reality is, as a credible journalist, I can tell you I mean, who watches I mean, whose bread and butter is to is to study the Pakistani politics that Shahbaz Sharif’s party has just got 15 seats, if you look at the form 45 And since your letter refers to the form 45 So you have an understanding of what I’m actually talking here from 45 and 47. And the party has less than 20% presence in the Parliament, and they have been made the ruling government. So, what do you think will happen from the State Department now from the US?

Greg Casar: I’ve had multiple conversations with the State Department about this issue. And what is so important and of course not here in the last few hours of course, since to the parliament voted, but over the course of this last month. And what we have to recognize is that this is, of course, our letter is trying to stand with the Pakistani people and make sure Pakistanis voices can be heard, and they can choose their own government. But we also have to consider that it is in the United States interest. For democracy to prevail in Pakistan, we want there to be peace and stability and economic security. And what we’ve learned is that that comes best from democracy from people feeling comfortable knowing that their voices were heard, whether or not their preferred party wins, whether or not the Prime Minister is the person they prefer, we know that it’s better for the world and for the United States interest. This is also just a direct United States interest question it should be for democracy to prevail. And part of why I got involved in this, as you talk about Texas, is that my own families from Latin America. And I’ve seen how when the United States has put in military money and put military interests or corporate interests first before democracy in Latin America, that it has actually backfired. The United States actually backed coups in Latin America toppled democratically elected governments, because we meddled in their domestic politics, and that actually hurt Latin American countries and also hurt the United States. So, we don’t want to repeat those sorts of mistakes. And that’s what we’re what I’m worried about in Pakistan is we should put our military alliances before the democracy and the voices of the people it’s not should be shouldn’t be in the State Department’s interest for one person to be Prime Minister and other party to run the government. Pakistani should decide that. But what we should make sure we do is make sure we’re not contributing to the repression or human rights violations in any place. And that’s what I’ve been communicating the State Department is that’s actually what’s in the United States interest.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : So, congressman, up is this understanding also shared by State Department, have you heard back from the State Department? I mean, you left your and Susan Wiles letter was received there on 27th to 28th of February, and today’s third March. So have you heard back from the State Department as to what to think of it,

 Greg Casar: We hope to get an official response very soon. Typically, it does take a little bit of time, because they want to put something together. And I hope that we hear positive things back on, you know, we there, there really three questions and demands made in the letter. One is withholding of recognition. A second, which should be low hanging fruit is making sure that anyone that has been wrongfully detained for free speech and journalism, for political activity that they be released. And that’s something that anyone should be able to step up and agree that we should do. And third, which is directly connected to this is withholding US military dollars. If they’ve been used to repress people’s rights, it’s actually against United States law, for us to be sending military assistance that then could be used to shut down people’s free speech rights or incarcerate people or get in the way of democracy. And so, we’re waiting to hear back about all three of those things. I know, it feels very urgent. And so, as we head back into Washington later this week, we will hopefully get an update. So, what

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : So, what happens in the process? I’m intrigued, you know, I mean, this was not my plan. Question. But so, you said you are you’re expecting to hear back since that you want US congressman, and most of you are Democrats, and if not all of your Democrats. And this is a democratic government Biden administration. So, what is the process when members of the Congress write to State Department and to the President, and this is an ongoing issue? So, what happens? I mean, they’re going to come back and explain to you, I mean, whatever the position is, I mean, they just keep silent on it. I mean, what happens?

 Greg Casar: We, I expect that we will eventually have a formal written response. But we probably can’t wait for that, given how quickly things are happening in Pakistan. And so, I hope that we actually get to have a face-to-face meeting with whichever number of those 31 members of Congress are available and interested in the State Department on where things currently stand. We have headed out from Washington, DC back to our communities, you can see you know that I’m in a hotel room right now. And then we make it back to Washington on Tuesday. And so and so hopefully early on in the week, before things continue to evolve. We can hear where the State Department stands. What I will tell you from the Biden administration is right, they have been they have been clear that they want a free and fair election. Now, it isn’t reasonable. It is not reasonable that if there’s a small abnormality here or there to withhold recognition, right, horse, but what we’ve seen from journalists what we’ve seen on video, the allegations are so widespread and so severe This is the kind of case where we’ve seen the Biden administration, as you pointed out, in your own journalism, have very strong statements. And I think they are in that place where they’re trying to make a decision about what to do when this case, but of course, in the case of Belarus or the case of Venezuela, case of Bangladesh, they’ve made strong statements in a year. We haven’t. And I think that that’s why it’s important for members of Congress to really speak up and bolster the Biden administration and taking a stronger stance.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : I’m glad that you mentioned both better to say that as well. I have the I have the documents in front of me the State Department positions. And in case of Venezuela, I mean, on January 30, the State Department’s official Russian position says actions by Nicolas Maduro and his representatives in Venezuela, including the arrest of members of the Democratic opposition, and the borrowing of candidate from competing in this year’s presidential election are inconsistent with the agreement signed in Barbados last October by representatives of Nicolas Maduro and the unitary platform, and then goes on to basically say that Venezuela’s oil and gas sector arrangements and agreements with the United States will not be renewed. I mean, there’s no such thing. I mean, similarly, if you look at the next page, this is actually regarding Belarus trade February and the State Department’s official position. The title is condemning sham parliamentary and local elections in Belarus and says, The United States condemns the Lukashenko regimes sham parliamentary and local elections that concluded today in Belarus, the elections were held in a climate of fear under which no electoral processes could be called democratic regime continues to hold more than 1400 political prisoners, but Congressman when these situations, I mean, at the minimum, they just comparable to Pakistan. But we know the situation in Pakistan is much worse, like with 10s of 1000s of people arrested, you know, the electoral symbol snatches the party’s political entity snatch, you know, almost literally 70% of the population working in one direction. So what do we make sense that why there is such a contrast between why the 9 million people in Belarus or 28 million people in Venezuela are more important than Pakistan, which has 200, almost 240 million plus, which is the fifth largest nation state in the world, which is the second largest Muslim country after Indonesia, which is the only nuclear Muslim country, nuclear power country with so many problems, why the State Department is so soft on the on the on the murder of democracy in Pakistan and so hard on Belarus, how do we make sense of it? How do your constituents make sense of it? In Texas?

 Greg Casar: You know, ultimately, that’s a question for the State Department is why they see them as different. But I can give you my take is that, of course, in each of these cases, we should hold everyone to the same standard. And in fact, I think we should hold our allies those that we provide military assistance to, to an even higher standard. So, in my view, we should actually be holding Pakistan to a higher democratic standard, because for instance, because we are allies, we are not, for example, military allies with Venezuela. So, I think that we should be, we should be thinking of this differently, we should be saying everyone should be held to a standard in our allies, even to a higher one. And that’s why I think, as you point out in a country that is so large, that has nuclear capabilities, we should be, we should really be pushing and making sure we protect democracy because it is so much harder to get it back once you have lost it. And at this point, now that things have progressed, it becomes much more difficult. Because to be clear, I and others want to make sure that we as we move forward from here, we don’t want the everyday people of Pakistan to be hurt. One of the mistakes, for example, I’ve seen us make with Cuba, and Venezuela and other places, is that we have very significant and clear disagreements with a lot of democracy, for example, in Venezuela, but then a lot of times the United States actions have actually harmed the poor and the working people of Venezuela, rather than changing anti-democratic practices. And so, we have to be thoughtful and careful moving forward from here to make sure that we continue to bolster democracy, continue to bolster free speech, try to get people out of jail that have been wrongfully detained. With hold in my hope is withhold recognition and condemn anti-democratic actions until they’re corrected. But what we don’t want to do is, for example, hurt the economic sectors that keep people fed in Pakistan. And so, we have to do our best to juggle both of those things. And I know that will be very challenging. Yeah. This

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : Actually, brings us to a very tricky question. The former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is in jail and who is supported by a large majority of Pakistani Americans. He has recently the last few days written a letter to the managing director MD Kristalina Georgieva of the of the IMF. You might have heard of it and he has demanded that you know, you can just do a 30% audit. And he has basically said the same thing that you know, the IMF and they haven’t said that you shouldn’t really do the IMF program. They said, you know, the IMF should be responsible, you should also take into consideration the democracy and the fairness of the elections, and should at least ask for a request for 30% audit of the election results that can be completed very quickly, within 15 days. In fact, the whole election, the whole election audit can be completed within 15 days. For the reason that the form 45 Complete. They were issued on eight February to all the political parties and the copies are available with all the political parties. It’s only a matter of aggregating them and counting them. So, but IMF program, which the Pakistani government and regime cannot survive it, they won’t enter the $6 billion from the IMF is a very interesting carrot and stick option with a Biden administration. If the Biden administration withholds the recognition of the new government, the Shahbaz Sharif government for just 15 days, the regime in Pakistan will be compelled to do the election audit, because the IMF, you know, in case of Venezuela, the IMF is not going to move forward with the program, unless the US and Western allies recognize the government. This is IMF stated position on Venezuela. So, I mean, can we do something on it?

 Greg Casar: I hope again, exactly what you’ve talked about, we want an independent investigation, we want to in this critical moment, try to protect democracy. And as you’ve said, we also need to be very careful because we don’t want innocent people who had nothing to do with what the government has decided to do or not to get hurt in the process. And so, I think you’re right, we have to be, we have to be insistent on a credible investigation and protecting democracy and be responsible because the reason we care about democracy is we care about the wellbeing of everyday people anywhere in the world.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : Just one or two more questions, how to sustain the process? I mean, of course, we can’t really force the State Department can put a gun on their head, how to sustain the process. The second part, the first was to withhold recognition, the second was released the political prisoners. Then the third was to make the Pakistani officials aware that the disruption of democracy, the violation of the human rights, and the furtherance of corruption. The US laws basically ask for accountability. So how to keep the momentum how not to forget this when you reach back Washington?

More to read:US is not a democracy – Putin

 Greg Casar: Well, again, the reason that you had, for example, 31 members of Congress sign on is because of the persistence of Pakistani Americans speaking out, oftentimes on behalf of the community here in the United States, but also people in Pakistan in so I think people have been so brave, all over the world, people, you know, whether they shut down social media, people still figure out a way to speak out on social media, even when they incarcerate journalists, people figure out how it is to get out the news. And I think that the continued bravery of democracy defenders in Pakistan, in the United States and all over the world, is really the only reason we have democracy anywhere. Still, it is. Democracy is something that has to constantly be protected, because there’s always so many forces that the other direction and so I just commend the bravery of those people who I will never meet and many of us will never know, who’ve been brave, brave enough to speak out.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: My last question, you might not have heard of this, that Twitter, which is now called X is blocked in Pakistan. No one is taking responsibility but is blocked. The courts asking for Twitter to be opened. But since 17, February with a senior election official admitted of election rigging, he said this, he is responsible for the election rigging he has been arrested since then he is recanted. He said it was a mistake. He said this, but the Twitter is continuously blocked in Pakistan, not only this, in the last 24 hours, a controversial senator from the outgoing Senate, who is considered very close with the military has actually passed his portfolio resolution that all the online social media platforms, including the Twitter, the Facebook, the YouTube, Instagram, and the tick tock, tick tock should be banned in Pakistan because they are injurious to religion, Islam. And these platforms are being used to demonize the Pakistani military. Do you think this is also a cause? That should be in front of your colleagues and Congressman?

More to read: Funds for CPEC Under Scrutiny by IMF

 Greg Casar: Yeah, so this is actually a place where the Biden administration has spoken out. But we have to make sure that we match our words with actions and that we are that this people know that this is serious, because freedom of speech is a baseline democratic principle. How is it that we have religious critiques of freedom of speech? That doesn’t make good sense? How else would religion spread? How else would we be able to share our values how else would be able to communicate with one another? And so, it is so powerful and brave that people still find their way to get the word out via social media that people still find a way to communicate despite all repression against them. And so, this is a very significant this is, I think this these actions that are so overreaching by the Pakistani government are actually what make us officials most alarmed. Because you can try to explain away a video of something by saying, well, at this angle, it looks like this or that angle, it looks like that. And it’s across the world, but just shutting down twitter or just shutting down Instagram, that that can’t be ignored. That is just a bass line fact. And clearly a violation of free speech and free association principles.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : So, let’s hope that the State Department takes a position on it. So, when should we again talk? I know that you’re reaching back, you’re traveling right now you’re reaching back to Washington, when should we again talking take stock of the situation.

 Greg Casar: My hope is that we’re able to provide an update shortly at some point during the next week, once we hear back from the State Department. And I would hope that the State Department makes their own statement here in the coming days given what’s going on in Pakistan. So, we will keep you posted. And thank you for covering this.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : And Congressman, thank you so much for joining me today. And thank you so much and I look forward to stay in touch with you and your team. Thank you.

Greg Casar: Thank you. Take care.