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No One Knows How Many Americans Are Imprisoned in Pakistan’s Crackdown on Dissent


The US helped spark a political crisis in Pakistan in 2022, which has led to a major crackdown by the military on supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. This crackdown has included detentions of dual citizens, including Pakistani-American fashion designer Khadijah Shah, who has received consular access from the US government. There is no exact number of foreign nationals detained, but some Pakistanis with ties to the West believe there are likely many more detained. The US government has deemed the crisis an internal affair and has not spoken of any attempts to determine whether other Americans may be detained there. The US has been accused of pressuring the Pakistani government to remove Khan from power in 2022, and documents and interviews have linked military officials to drug traffickers and mercenary firms.


How many American dual citizens are currently detained in Pakistan?
The exact number of American dual citizens currently detained in Pakistan is unclear.

What has the US government said about Khadijah Shah, a Pakistani-American fashion designer in custody of the military?
The US government has requested consular access to Shah from the Pakistani government and has said that they are monitoring her case closely.

What is the US government's response to the detention of foreign nationals of Pakistani descent in Pakistan?
The US government has said that they expect Pakistani authorities to afford all detainees fair and transparent treatment in accordance with Pakistan’s laws and international obligations.

What was the US government's role in the crisis sparked by former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's removal from power in 2022?
The US government is believed to have played a role in helping trigger the crisis by threatening Pakistani counterparts with “isolation” if Khan remained in power and promising rewards should he be removed in a 2022 no-confidence vote.

What is the US government's stance on the political repression of dissidents in Pakistan and the safety and security of US citizens overseas?
The US government has said that they have no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas and that they are in close contact with Pakistani authorities on this issue.

AI Comments

👍 This article is an important reminder of the consequences of U.S. interference in foreign politics and the plight of dual citizens caught up in the military’s dragnet.

👎 This article fails to provide any real solutions to the problem of dual citizens imprisoned in Pakistan, and instead just points out the gravity of the situation.

AI Discussion

Me: It's about the political crisis in Pakistan sparked by former Prime Minister Imran Khan's removal from power in 2022. It's led to a major crackdown on what remains of his political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The crackdown includes a wave of killings and detentions targeting Khan’s supporters, including journalists believed to be aligned with his movement. Unfortunately, some of those caught up in the dragnet are American and British citizens and residents.

Friend: Wow, that's really concerning. What are the implications of this?

Me: Well, it's a worrying situation because the U.S. and British governments have both deemed the crisis over Khan’s removal an internal affair of the Pakistani government, even as the crackdown on his party has extended into a general attack on Pakistan’s civil society. There have been allegations of torture and extrajudicial detentions, and the exact number of foreign nationals detained in this sweep is unclear. It's also concerning that the U.S. government has done little to help dual citizens caught up in the military’s dragnet, despite playing a role in setting the crisis in motion.

Action items

Technical terms

A coordinated effort to capture a large number of people suspected of a crime.
Consular Access
The right of a foreign government to communicate with and provide assistance to its citizens abroad.
Political Repression
The use of violence, intimidation, or other forms of coercion to suppress political dissent.
A group of civilians organized and trained to act as a military force.
Counterterrorism Police
A law enforcement agency that specializes in preventing and responding to terrorist attacks.
Vague and Overbroad Laws
Laws that are not specific enough or are too broad in scope, making them difficult to interpret and enforce.
Extrajudicial Detentions
The detention of individuals without due process of law.
The intentional infliction of physical or psychological pain or suffering on a person.
The act of separating or cutting off from contact with others.

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