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US envoy-designate vows to defend religious & press freedoms in Pakistan

Updated 16 Dec, 2021
US ambassador-designate to Pakistan Donald Blome. 

SOURCE: Twitter
US ambassador-designate to Pakistan Donald Blome. SOURCE: Twitter

US Ambassador-designate to Pakistan David Blome on Tuesday vowed to continue to defend “human rights in Pakistan, particularly freedom of religion and expression.”

Blome was speaking to the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee in Washington DC when he talked about religious minorities in Pakistan facing “societal and legal discrimination, as well as accusations of blasphemy.”

He said these incidents have not only “undermined the rule of law” but have also “deeply damaged Pakistan’s international reputation, and led to murderous violence and many deaths.”

He also spoke about the threat to journalists in the country and his statement said if he was confirmed he will “urge the Pakistani government to cease harassment of journalists and members of civil society, who have faced kidnappings, assaults, intimidation, and disappearances, and hold perpetrators of these actions accountable.”

Referring to the country’s role in Afghanistan as “Mission Pakistan” he said that it plays an important role in encouraging an inclusive Afghan government, which respects all humans equally while also ensuring that “Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.”

US President Joe Biden nominated Blome as ambassador to Pakistan. Blome was serving as ambassador to Tunisia when his name was announced.

The US Embassy in Islamabad has not had a full ambassador since David Hale ended his tenure in 2018; the mission has been led by Charge D’Affaires.

In Tuesday's hearing, Blome vowed to “press” Islamabad to “target terrorist groups without distinction” especially since the US and Pakistan were already “committed to combatting Al-Qaida, ISIS-Khorasan, and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.”

He said if confirmed, he will also engage Pakistan on fighting all other terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

He also vowed to de-escalate tensions between Pakistan and India, expressing that it was encouraging to see the continued cease fire at the Lind of Control. If confirmed, Blome will be the first US envoy to Pakistan since August 2018.

In related news, Eric Garcetti, the US ambassador-designate to India said he wants to “double down” on India’s capability of securing its borders, defending its sovereignty and deterring aggression. He also touched upon discussing the Indian purchases of Russian arms, while saying he will also ensure that human rights, especially the discrimination against Muslims is also addressed in his tenure.