Peace crusader Medea Benjamin, others blast State Dept. Lu’s as a liar at Congress hearing

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Washington DC: (By AHMAR MUSTIKHAN0 Just like the U.S. never supported Pakistan dictators — Generals Ayub, Zia and Musharraf — and had no role in ouster of the most popular premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and subsequent hanging nearly half century ago, Assistant Secretary Donald Lu had no role in the ouster of former premier Imran Khan.

At least this is what Lu, Assistant Secretary of South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State wanted the American public to believe. The written testimony he presented Wednesday at a congressional hearing “Pakistan After the Elections: Examining the Future of Democracy in Pakistan and the US-Pakistan Relationship,” failed to mention the name of the most popular civilian leader Pakistan Tehrik Insaf chief Imran Khan.

The highly charged hearing was held by the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia of the House Foreign Relations Committee.

Pakistan first military dictator Gen Ayub Khan being chummy with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Ayub was suspected of having killed prime ministers Liaquat Ali Khan and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Fatima Jinnah, sister of Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

in the backdrop of reports that U.S. ambassador Donald Blome has developed close ties with Pakistan army chief, Gen. Asim Munir.

“Liar!” yelled Pakistani Americans who a day earlier complained at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. that their countries C.I.A., called the I.S.I., was using Pakistan embassy soil in the U.S. and was trying to silence them through, what they called, transnational repression.

It is clear that just like Bhutto was punished for his loyalty to the then Non Aligned Movement, so was Imran Khan sent home as he desired Pakistan to remain neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Reports say it was on Donald Lu’s bidding, Pakistan’s renter army, long addicted to licking U.S. boots, working from behind the scenes with the country’s C.I.A. called the I.S.I., got a no-confidence motion tabled in parliament against Khan and got him removed.

President Bush with coup leader and military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf ordered former Balochistan governor and chief minister Nawab Akbar Bugti killed and is also suspected of having a hand in the Taliban killing of premier Benazir Bhutto.

Once Imran was out of the way, the U.S.-brokered IMF loan and allowed Pakistan’s military postpone elections, deepen a brutal crackdown, and jail former Prime Minister Imran Khan, according to an investigative report in The Intercept.

While Donald Lu was jeered by Pakistani Americans who are deeply hurt by Uncle Sam trying to control their ancestral country, one of United States main peace crusaders, Medea Benjamin was present with other comrades of Code Pink.

Medea Benjamin, Tighe Barry and other Code Pink activists, wearing Imran Khan T-shirts, raised slogans for his freedom from military detention.

Benjamin tweeted, “Today, at a hearing on Pakistani elections we were kicked out before we even began protesting. The entire audience erupted in disagreement, chanting “LIES!” as Congress questioned Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, and the committee ordered just three people removed.

Benjamin said according to documents leaked to the Intercept, in 2022 Lu had a tense meeting with Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S. in which State Department officials threatened that Pakistan could face isolation from the U.S. and its allies due to Khan’s neutrality on the war in Ukraine. Lu told the Pakistani ambassador that “all would be forgiven” if Khan was removed from power.

She said after his removal, the U.S. assisted Pakistan in obtaining a large loan from the IMF and the country began producing ammunitions for the war in Ukraine.

“Khan was arrested in 2023 and though his conviction was suspended by Pakistani courts, he is still behind bars after subsequent charges were made against him over his handling of information regarding this meeting,” Benjamin said.

Many internationals took note of what happened at the Sub Committee on Middle East, Africa and West Asia Wednesday morning.

Tugray Evren, author of World is Bigger than Five, Don’t Cry Jerusalem and other books, tweeted, “Don Lu was asked about his role in pressuring Pakistan to oust Imran Khan. "These allegations, this conspiracy theory is a lie," he says at a hearing.

“The entire audience erupts, calling him a liar. The entire audience shouts him down.”

Sajjad Burki, Houston-based focal person of the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf in the U.S. tweeted, “When Asst Secretary of State Donald Lu began to lie about the cipher in the hearing, he was taken to task by the audience and heckled to the extent that they were forced to remove some people. Donald Lu claimed that the cipher was a lie, so how and why was Imran Khan convicted? Three cheers for the Pakistani American community.”

Lu also lied how the U.S. State Department reacts to elections in foreign nations. Responding to a question by progressive congressman Greg Casar, Donald Lu said, “We actually don't go around recognizing or withholding recognition of new governments. That's not something we do anywhere.”

However, Just Foreign Policy’s executive director Eric Sperling tweeted what the State Department had said about Afghanistan: US "has not yet made a decision as to whether to recognize the Taliban or any other entity as the Government of Afghanistan"

Salman Ahmad, one of Pakistan’s most popular rock stars three decades back, who was Imran Khan’s adviser tweeted, “It’s an overwhelming tidal wave of US & global media criticism. Donald Lu has been exposed on oath, as a shifty, smooth talking , alternative factual , LIAR.” Salman Ahmad included Congressman Ro Khanna’s TikTok video denouncing the fake elections of February 8, 2024.

Congressman Ro Khanna calls for new elections in Pakistan.

In a WhatsApp message to this writer, Salman Ahmad said, “Multiple Congressmen used my testimony of Transnational Repression to question Donald Lu.”

Salman Ahmad’s sister home was raided and his brother in law was taken away and tortured by Pakistani spooks in May 2022. Like Ahmad, his sister and brother in law are Americans (see full testimony below).

Congressman Brad Sherman raised the issue of security to the life of the former premier. He demanded of the State Department, “Do we have faith that Imran Khan has not been the victim of selective justice

Donald Lu started waffling, tweeted Pakistan journalist Javed Hassan.

Sherman continued: “If I may interrupt. The American Ambassador needs to visit Imran Khan in prison and make sure that he lives to tell the tale of how he was wrongfully imprisoned through selective prosecution….”

Three other congressmen did a good job to express concerns and asked tough questions: Rep. Mike McCaul R-TX (10th Dist.), Rep. August Pflugar R-TX (11th Dist.) and Rep. Gabe Amo D- RI (1st Dist).

Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey said in a Press statement she had highlighted her concerns on the ongoing crackdowns against the freedom of press and assembly, restrictions on political internet content, and reports of arbitrary detention in Pakistan with the foreign relations committee leaders, Mike McCaul and Gregory Meeks.

 “Unfortunately, the situation in Pakistan has deteriorated further. The February elections were marked by internet shutdowns, violence, and accusations of election tampering. The State Department has called for claims of fraud and interference in the election to be investigated.”

Syed Akbar Hussain, a former Pakistan army colonel who now lives in Virginia and is a fierce critic of Pakistan’s army chief Gen Asim Munir, commenting on Donald Lu’s deposition, said basically America stands exposed with its state department caught pants down.

He said, “Asim Munir is playing their nerves like earlier dictators, bluffing them with the China card. U.S. needs to see its history with allies; did democratic allies worked better or dictatorships?”

Texas Congressman August Pflugar pointedly asked: “Do you believe that the recent election was free and fair?"

Donald Lu responded, “We have never used the term 'free and fair' in the characterization of this election.”

See below testimonies of Salman Ahmad and Donald Lu:

Hearing Entitled “Pakistan After the Elections: Examining the Future of Democracy in Pakistan and the US-Pakistan Relationship”

House Sub Committee Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia

March 20, 2024

Testimony of Dr. Salman Ahmad

Esteemed Congress Members –

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

My name is Dr. Salman Ahmad. I am a Pakistani-American from Rockland County, New York. I am a medical doctor, professional musician, author, filmmaker, and activist.

During my career, I helped form Vital Signs and Junoon, two of South Asia’s most iconic pop-rock groups with Pakistani and American band members. Over the last decade, I’ve volunteered my medical and musical services to strengthen health, education, democracy, and human rights in Pakistan through what I call rock and roll activism. Under former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, I worked on reducing polio rates and Pakistan’s highly effective COVID-19 program. I also served as an advisor to Prime Minister Khan on arts and culture.

Since the toppling of Prime Minister Khan’s government in April 2022, my life, my family’s life, and the lives of many Pakistani Americans have been under constant threat. Indeed, since 2022, Pakistan has been backsliding into a tyrannical military dictatorship.

In May 2023, fifteen masked men scaled the wall of my Pakistani-American sister’s home in Karachi. They broke down her front door Gestapo-style and rounded up all of the family members. My sister demanded to see a warrant, but they had no documents to identify who they were. They took my brother-in-law, my sister’s husband (also a US citizen), hostage in an unmarked black unmarked truck. They questioned him over my alleged anti-state activities. My brother-in-law was interrogated and tortured, and he was told that I needed to turn over my Twitter (now X) password. He was also told that I had to delete my posts critical of Pakistan’s military chief, Asim Munir, and his predecessor, General Bajwa.

I worked frantically behind the scenes and thankfully, was able to secure my brother-in-law’s release and also helped in the release of prominent designer (US citizen) Khadija Shah, who was detained for seven months for exercising her constitutional right to protest peacefully.

ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS

Friendship in Pakistan carries grave risks.

The stakes escalated dramatically for me in October, 2022 during a humanitarian flight with former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team to support a relief event for Flood victims in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan.

As we flew back to Islamabad, the helicopter pilot informed us that both engines had failed. It was a near-death experience. Miraculously, the pilot managed to execute an emergency landing—on a cricket pitch, of all places.

A subsequent public investigation revealed that the helicopter’s fuel had been tampered with and the engines had been sabotaged.

This was my first, but not my last, encounter with an assassination attempt.

In December 2022, I found that an “unknown person” in Balochistan had filed a case against me for sedition and treason because of my anti-martial law tweets.

In March 2023, a person who identified himself as an Army Brigadier approached my 86-year-old father (also a US citizen) in Lahore. He told my father, “Your son’s life is in grave danger,” and said that I should leave Pakistan and never return.

PRIME MINISTER IMRAN KHAN IS OUSTED

According to The Intercept, an unknown number of Pakistani Americans continue to languish in Pakistani jails for their support of democracy and human rights. Also, many relatives of Pakistani Americans have been put on the Exit Control List, preventing them from leaving Pakistan to instill fear and silence the voices of Pakistanis living abroad.

On May 8, 2023, Representative Maxine Waters, Imran Khan, and I had a confidential Zoom conversation in which Imran Khan told Representative Waters about these assassination attempts and the threat to democracy and human rights in Pakistan.

On May 9, 2023, the day after this private Zoom conversation, former Prime Minister Imran Khan was abducted by military commanders from inside the High Court in Islamabad.

Since Khan’s ouster and subsequent imprisonment, the Pakistani “Establishment,” which consists of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistani Army, has inflicted a relentless campaign to suppress perceived dissent. Many Pakistani Americans have found themselves unwittingly caught in this dragnet.

US citizens of Pakistani origin are being subjected to a restriction of our freedom of expression, speech, and religious belief. We have faced enforced disappearances, military courts, and

harassment and arrest for being human rights defenders. This is the most dangerous form of martial law Pakistan has experienced in its history. It has distorted constitutional institutions and made a mockery of law and order.

TRANSNATIONAL REPRESSION

As the Pakistani government ratchets up its stalking, intimidation, and assault on innocent Pakistani Americans, I have had many conversations with U.S. law enforcement officers, including the FBI, and officials at the Department of Homeland Security. All have indicated to me that the United States is taking the threat of transnational repression very seriously.

Globally, transnational repression is one of the most severe threats to human rights, democratic governance, and state sovereignty. In the last year alone, we have seen several high-profile cases, including the murder of an Indo-Canadian in Canada and the targeting of Indian Americans and Chinese Americans by foreign intelligence agencies on U.S. soil.

A politically and economically unstable Pakistan poses a global threat. The United States cannot afford violations of the fundamental rights and safety of Pakistani Americans. The United States cannot and must not turn a blind eye to the ongoing undermining of principles of democracy, justice, and the rule of law in Pakistan.

CONCLUSION

The Pakistani Establishment is under the misguided notion that it can operate without fear of repercussion or international scrutiny. The above examples highlight just how emboldened the Pakistani military, intelligence agency, and current government have become in their campaign of widespread transnational repression marked by brazen and chilling acts of violence and intimidation.

As the country emerges from what the New York Times has described as “the least credible election” in its history, I say with great regret that the Pakistani state has completely lost the plot.

Nowhere is safe for us Pakistani Americans who are being targeted by the Pakistani Establishment. I implore you to act now and act fast to address the dire threat Pakistani Americans, at home and abroad, face. Thank you for your time and your support.

Full text of Donald Lu presentation:

HFAC MENACA Subcommittee Testimony on Pakistan Elections

March 20, 2024

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, colleagues,

When I was a junior officer in Peshawar, Pakistan 31 years ago, I saw up close a

Pakistani election. I saw the election irregularities along with the courage of

Pakistani voters who turned up despite threats of violence and intimidation.

Three decades ago, it was a contest between Nawaz Sharif, brother of the current

Prime Minister, and the late Benazir Bhutto, whose son and husband now lead the

Pakistan People's Party.

Today, I propose saying a few words about where the election on February 8 fell

short, where we saw positive elements, and what lies ahead for U.S. policy in

Pakistan.

Election Irregularities

The day after the elections, the State Department issued a clear statement:

1) Noting undue restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association, and

peaceful assembly.

2) Condemning electoral violence and restrictions on human rights and

fundamental freedoms.

3) Condemning attacks on media workers, and restrictions on access to the

internet and telecommunication services.

4) Expressing concern about allegations of interference in the electoral process

and stating claims of interference or fraud should be fully investigated.

Let me drill down a bit deeper into our observations. We were particularly

concerned about electoral abuses and violence that happened in the weeks

leading up to the elections. First, there were attacks against police, politicians,

and political gatherings by terrorist groups. Second, many journalists, particularly

female journalists, were harassed and abused by party supporters. And several

UNCLASSIFIED

political leaders were disadvantaged by the inability to register specific candidates

and political parties.

On the day of the elections, an internationally respected local election monitoring

organization said that they were barred from observing vote tabulation in more

than half of the constituencies across the country. And despite a high court

instruction not to interrupt internet service on election day, authorities shut down

mobile data services, the principal means by which Pakistanis access social media

and messaging applications.

Progress in Participation

There were positive elements as well in these elections. Despite threats of

violence, over 60 million Pakistanis voted, including over 21 million women.

Voters elected 50 percent more women to Parliament than they did in 2018. In

addition to a record number of women candidates, there were record numbers of

members of religious and ethnic minority groups and young people running for

seats in Parliament.

Voters in Pakistan had a choice. A range of political parties won seats in national

and provincial assemblies. Three different political parties now lead Pakistan’s

four provinces.

More than 5,000 independent observers were in the field. Their organization’s

conclusion was that the conduct of the election was largely competitive and

orderly, while noting some irregularities in the compilation of results.

U.S. Policy Going Forward

Pakistan is an important partner of the United States. We share a commitment to

strengthening Pakistan’s democratic institutions, supporting the U.S.-Pakistan

Green Alliance Framework, cooperating to counter terrorist threats from groups

like al Qa’ida and ISIS, and bolstering respect for human rights, including religious

freedom.

Most importantly, the United States plays a critical role in promoting economic

stability in Pakistan. We are also the top destination for Pakistan’s exports. We

have been one of the most important investors in critical infrastructure over the

76 years of our partnership. For example, the U.S. government is refurbishing the

UNCLASSIFIED

Mangla and Tarbela dams that provide electricity to tens of millions of Pakistanis.

Our support for Pakistan over these decades has been in the form of development

grants, private sector investment, and humanitarian assistance during periods of

greatest need, including the recent catastrophic flooding.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is facing mounting debt challenges after the past decade

of elevated borrowing, including from the PRC. This year, nearly 70 percent of the

federal government’s revenue is expected to go to payments to service this

massive debt. Pakistan needs economic reforms and private sector-led

investments that will deliver economic growth for the Pakistani people and not dig

their government deeper into debt.

Finally, the Pakistani people deserve a country that is peaceful, democratic, and

prosperous. We are working every day to support that vision. I thank the

subcommittee for its leadership on developing our relations with Pakistan and I

pledge to work with the Members of your subcommittee as we execute our policy.

Watch full video of Wednesday’s congressional hearing here:

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