Tuesday, March 5, 2024

US says Imran’s sentence ‘matter for Pakistani courts’

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WASHINGTON:

US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller refrained from commenting in detail on Tuesday regarding the sentencing of former prime minister Imran Khan, stating that the matter was one for the Pakistani courts.

During a routine press briefing, spokesperson Miller consistently emphasised that the legal proceedings against the ex-prime minister and the PTI head were matters to be resolved by the Pakistani judicial system.

“We’ve been closely following the cases brought against the former prime minister, but we refrain from making any comments on the sentencing,” he reiterated. “The issue lies within the jurisdiction of the Pakistani courts,” responded Miller.

The spokesperson stressed that the prosecution of the former prime minister falls under the purview of the legal system, and the United States would defer to Pakistani courts on legal matters. However, he expressed the desire to witness the democratic process unfolding in a manner that encourages broad participation from all parties, highlighting the importance of respecting democratic principles.

Addressing a related inquiry, Miller clarified that the US maintains a neutral stance on internal Pakistani affairs and refrains from taking positions on candidates for office in the country. “We advocate for a free, fair, and open democratic process, and in legal matters, it is for Pakistani courts to make decisions,” he asserted.

The spokesperson reiterated the US’s consistent call for the upholding of democratic principles, human rights, and the rule of law in Pakistan and worldwide.

Read Legal wizards ponder verdict rationale

Miller also underscored the US’s aspiration for a free and fair election, stating that they would closely monitor the process over the next week to 10 days. While acknowledging room for improvement in certain areas in Pakistan, he clarified that there was “no specific assessment made in the current case.”

Previously, the US said it would continue to support a “vibrant” democracy in Pakistan but it was not supposed to dictate Islamabad the “exact specifics” of holding the general elections, which are due in the country next month.

Miller declined to comment on the allegations of “excesses ahead of the polls” levelled by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against the government.

“We will continue to support democratic expression and a vibrant democracy in Pakistan,” he told the journalists. “It’s not for the United States to dictate to Pakistan how it conducts – the exact specifics of how it conducts – its election,” he added.

“But to make clear that we want to see those elections conducted in a free, fair, and peaceful manner that includes freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and ultimately a full, open, reliable, vibrant democratic process,” he said.

“Our interest, as you have heard me say before, is in the democratic process. We want to see free and fair elections that are conducted per Pakistan’s laws, and we don’t support one candidate or party over another in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world.”

Imran’s sentences

The spokesperson’s comments come as the former premier was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in the cypher case a day earlier. He was convicted in the case along with party leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the foreign minister in Imran’s government.

The sentence was handed down inside Adiala jail, where the former premier is already incarcerated, by judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain of the special court, set up under the Official Secrets Act.

Earlier today, Imran was sentenced, along with his wife Bushra Bibi, for 14 years in the Toshakhana case as well.

Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir presided over the hearing at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail, where the former prime minister is incarcerated.

Imran and Bushra were also barred from holding any public office for the next 10 years and were fined a combined amount of Rs1,574 million.

The convictions come merely a week before the country heads to polls, on February 8.

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