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US watches Pakistan with hawk eyes, wants consular access to designer Khadija Shah

Fashion designer Khadija Shah holds dual US and Pakistani nationality (Photo: Twitter)

The Pakistani Army’s crackdown on former prime minister Imran Khan’s supporters is creating a ripple in Islamabad’s diplomatic relations.

The US on Tuesday asked Pakistan to provide consular access to fashion designer Khadija Shah, founder of luxury fashion brand Elan and Zaha, who was arrested following the May 9 protests by Imran Khan supporters after Khan’s arrest by paramilitary forces at the Islamabad High Court.

State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters: “We have asked Pakistani officials for consular access to her”. The US also said that Pakistan has arrested a number of US nationals in the crackdown.

Patel said: “Whenever a US citizen is arrested overseas, we stand ready to provide all appropriate assistance and we expect Pakistani authorities to respect all fair-trial guarantees owed to these detainees”. The state department has not  been provided access to Shah, reported Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

Shah, who is the granddaughter of former Army Staff General Asif Nawaz Janjua, holds dual citizenship of the US and Pakistan. Her father was a prominent politician during President General Parvez Musharraf’s rule. Now she is part of the severe crackdown by the Pakistani Army.

Shah is a known supporter of Khan’s party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Pakistani authorities are considering her as one of the main suspects in the attack on Jinnah House – the Lahore Corps Commander’s house.

Following two days of rioting across Pakistan in which military homes, cantonments and even historic buildings were burnt, Shah had been in hiding. She eventually surfaced, tendered an apology and was arrested.

Shah’s family has put up a stout defence, saying that Shah had voluntarily showed up for an investigation but was arrested. She was subsequently produced before an anti-terrorism court with the Pakistan military and Shehbaz Sharif’s government deciding unanimously that Khan’s supporters arrested for the attacks on military properties will be tried under military laws, and not in civilian courts.

Meanwhile, PTI supporters among the American diaspora are lobbying with the US to intervene in the state of lawlessness that has gripped Pakistan following Khan’s arrest and subsequent release by the Pakistani Supreme Court.

However, spokesperson Patel said: “We engage directly with our Pakistani partners on the issues that are of importance to the United States and are of importance to broader regional security and stability”, after Khan’s supporters made efforts to seek the American intervention. The US made it clear that it would not intervene on behalf of a political party as its relations are with a government.