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US describes Donald Lu’s testimony as routine

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US describes Donald Lu’s testimony as routine

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The US State Department has described the upcoming Congressional committee hearing of Assistant Secretary Donald Lu as routine, saying “any number of State Department officials testify all the time before the Congress”.

The House Subcommittee on the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia will hold a hearing titled, “Pakistan After the Elections: Examining the Future of Democracy in Pakistan and the US-Pakistan Relationship” on March 20.

The hearing will also delve into the dynamics of US-Pakistan relations following the Feb 8 general elections.

However, foreign policy analysts said that the hearing is unlikely to affect the direction of ties between the nations that have been rocky, though they have improved in the past two years.

“Any number of State Department officials testify all the time before Congress. We see it as an important part of our jobs to help Congress do its job, both from a policymaking perspective and from an oversight perspective,” said State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller when asked about the scheduled hearing at a news briefing on Thursday.

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“So, we always look forward both to the informal conversations we have with Congress, the formal conversations, and of course the actual testimony that our officials provide,” he added.

When asked if the department was concerned about Lu’s safety during the hearing due to previous threats, Miller stated, “Of course, we take any threats towards US officials seriously and condemn any effort to threaten the safety and security of our diplomats.”

The spokesperson reiterated the rejection of allegations against Lu regarding the toppling of former prime minister Imran Khan, stating, “The underlying allegations against Assistant Secretary Lu, they’re false. They’ve always been false. You’ve heard me say that more than once, more than twice, more than ten times probably.”

Formally, Pakistan welcomed the hearing, saying that it hopes that deliberations “contribute to promoting positive dynamics in bilateral ties” between the two countries.

“Pakistan values its close relationship with the United States and believes in constructive engagement on all matters. And we respect the prerogative of legislative bodies to discuss and debate international issues,” the Pakistani foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.

The hearing follows a letter that was endorsed by 31 Congress members, who wrote to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on February 29, urging them to not recognise the new Pakistani government and push for an investigation into alleged manipulation in elections.

Pakistan conducted its general polls last month, which were marred by widespread allegations of fraud, unusually delayed results and numerous other irregularities.

The biggest winners in the polls were Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) backed candidates, who won 93 seats, despite being denied the use of their electoral symbol, a cricket bat, days before the polls. The party’s leader, former Prime Minister Imran Khan, has been in prison since August 2023, and was convicted on multiple charges just before the elections. Numerous other party-backed candidates were unable to conduct election canvassing due to a crackdown by the authorities.

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