US Congresswoman meets Pakistan leaders amid regime change conspiracy row

Islamabad, Apr 20 (EFE).- Ilhan Omar, a United States Congresswoman, met with Pakistani leaders Wednesday amid a raging political crisis, sparked by the former prime minister Imran Khan’s accusation that Washington had conspired to unseat him.

The Muslim Congresswoman met President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Khan, and other officials in the Pakistani capital on the first day of her four-day trip which will take her to parts of the disputed Kashmir region under Pakistani control.

In his meeting with Omar, Sharif hoped that Omar’s visit would deepen people-to-people ties and boost exchanges between lawmakers of the US and Pakistan.

The prime minister said Pakistan valued its long-standing relationship with the US, its largest trading partner, and wanted to strengthen ties based on mutual respect, trust, and equality.

“Constructive engagement between the two countries could help promote peace, security, and development in the region,” a prime minister’s office statement said.

The president appreciated the “outstanding role of the US Congresswomen in upholding Muslim values, fighting against Islamophobia, and in the cause of Palestinians and Kashmiris,” an official statement said.

Omar met Khan at his residence in Islamabad.

The two leaders discussed the issue of Islamophobia and issues concerning the Muslim world, tweeted Shireen Mazari, former human rights minister in the Khan-led government.

“The hatred against Muslims in India is on the rise,” a statement quoted Khan telling Omar.

Per the statement, Omar said it was a need of time to overcome religious discrimination, especially the prejudice against Muslims across the world.

Omar’s visit comes amid an unprecedented strain in ties between the US and Pakistan during the previous government of the nuclear-powered South Asian country.

Khan has alleged that the US conspired with the Pakistani opposition to oust him after his Moscow visit to meet President Vladimir Putin on Feb.24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

Khan said that the US and its western allies were enraged as Pakistan began a new era of an independent foreign policy and refused to back a United Nations resolution to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Washington has denied the allegations.

Khan was ousted from power earlier this month after losing the parliamentary majority as some of his allies and his party lawmakers abandoned him.

The parliament elected a new coalition government led by Sharif, a pro-western politician and the younger brother of three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif.

Omar, known for being vocal against Islamophobic voices and her support for the Palestinian cause, is the first senior US official to visit Pakistan after the new government and the “regime change foreign conspiracy” row.

The 39-year-old US politician has condemned India’s alleged human rights violations in the disputed Kashmir region, divided between India and Pakistan amid sovereignty claims over the Muslim-majority Himalayan territory.

“We should be calling for an immediate restoration of communication, respect for human rights, democratic norms, and religious freedom, and de-escalation in Kashmir,” Omar tweeted in 2019, days after India unilaterally stripped the disputed region of its semi-autonomy after imposing months-long security lockdown.

Omar’s criticism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s controversial Kashmir decisions made her a target of harsh and sometimes abusive social media criticism in India.

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