Home Latest News Blome Vows to Defend Human Rights in Pakistan as U.S. Ambassador

Blome Vows to Defend Human Rights in Pakistan as U.S. Ambassador

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Donald Blome. No Credit

In opening statement to Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ambassador-designate highlights ‘important opportunity’ to strengthen bilateral ties with Islamabad

Donald Blome, the designated U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, on Tuesday vowed to continue defending human rights in Pakistan, particularly freedom of religion and expression.

“Religious minorities in Pakistan have long faced societal and legal discrimination, as well as accusations of blasphemy. These accusations have undermined the rule of law, threatened mob rule, deeply damaged Pakistan’s international reputation, and led to murderous violence and many deaths. If confirmed, I will speak out against these abuses and violations of human rights and religious freedom,” read his opening statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing.

Blome said that he would urge Islamabad to end its harassment of journalists and members of civil society, and hold accountable those responsible for “kidnappings, assaults, intimidation, and disappearances.” He also maintained that not only would he advocate for greater protection for freedom of association, but would also regularly meet civil society partners.

On Afghanistan, the ambassador-designate said he would prioritize the safe relocation of an U.S. citizens; lawful permanent residents; special immigrant visa applicants; and other Afghans to whom the U.S. had a special responsibility, along with their family members. “Mission Pakistan also plays an important role on encouraging an inclusive Afghan government that respects and promotes the human rights of all individuals, including women and girls and members of minority groups, and ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism,” he added.

Blome said he would, as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, “press” Islamabad to target all terrorist groups without distinction. Noting that both states were united in combating Al Qaeda, ISIS-Khorasan, and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, he said he would also engage Islamabad on fighting groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. He said he would also work to decrease tensions between India and Pakistan. “Strong U.S. bilateral partnerships with India and Pakistan are not mutually exclusive; we need productive ties with both states. Pakistan and India should decide the pace, scope, and character of their bilateral interactions,” he added.

The official noted that Pakistan and the U.S. were already working together to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. He said that Pakistan had, in May 2020, donated 100,000 facemasks and 25,000 protective suits to the U.S. while Washington had in turn donated to Islamabad 27.6 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as 200 ventilators, and 1,200 pulse oximeters.

The ambassador-designate stressed that the U.S.’ relationship with Pakistan remained extraordinarily consequential for its core interests. “Pakistan is pursuing expanded economic linkages with the United States as part of what it calls ‘geo-economics.’ We have a shared interest in promoting the role of U.S. business and commercial interests in Pakistan’s economy,” he said, adding that if confirmed he would work to resolve market access issues; intellectual property protections; and contract enforcement. “I will encourage Pakistan to promote more transparent investments through sustainable financing, with a focus on the environmental and social impacts of investment projects,” he added.

Blome concluded his opening statement by saying this was an “important opportunity” to renew and strengthen Washington’s bilateral relationship with Islamabad.

Nominated the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan in October, Blome is a career diplomat who is considered a Middle East expert. If confirmed, he would be the first U.S. envoy to Pakistan since August 2018, when David Hale terminated his mission.

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