US on exiled MQM chief: Critical opinion should be encouraged, not silenced in democrarcy

(In Picture) Supporters of Pakistan's ethnic political party Muthaida Qaumi Movement (MQM) hold their leader Altaf Hussain's picture during a public meeting. Photograph:( Getty )

PTI Washington, United States Aug 24, 2016, 06.48 AM (IST)
With Pakistan slapping treason charges on Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain for his alleged inflammatory speech, the United States (US) has said that in a democracy, critical opinion should be encouraged, not silenced.

"I would just say in a democratic society, critical opinion should be encouraged, not silenced. We believe that democracies become stronger by allowing free expression from diverse voices within society and we would certainly emphasise that any expression must be peaceful," state department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said on Tuesday.

Hussain, who has been living in self-imposed exile in London since 1992, was charged with treason for his speech that seemingly incited party workers to attack media outlets in Pakistan. 

Responding to a question on the arrest of MQM leaders, he said the US is always concerned when members of a political party are detained or arrested.

"We obviously uphold the importance and believe in the importance of public assembly, freedom of speech, as long as it's peaceful. We would emphasise that any kind of protest, any kind of demonstrations would need to be conducted peacefully. So I think we're still assessing, gathering information about what took place. And we'll reserve further comment until that time," Toner said.

The MQM has been the single largest party in Karachi for decades and has dominated the political landscape for years sweeping provincial and national elections but the party has come under pressure since the clean-up operations began on the orders of the centre.

(WION with inputs from PTI)
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