New Delhi, Feb 10: The electoral process in Pakistan has raised concerns from the United States, Britain, and the European Union following a recent vote on Thursday. They have individually called for an investigation into reported irregularities, Reuters reported.
The primary contest revolved around former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party and candidates supported by ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan. Both parties claimed victory independently. Elections were conducted for 265 seats in the National Assembly, with a requirement of 133 seats for a simple majority.
Both the US and the EU highlighted allegations of interference, including activist arrests, and stressed the need for a thorough investigation into claims of irregularities, interference, and fraud. Imran Khan is currently in jail, and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has been excluded from the polls. Independents, primarily supported by the PTI founder, secured the majority of seats, with 98 out of 245 by the early hours of the day, while Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party secured 69 seats.
The EU statement noted a “lack of a level playing field”, attributing that to “the inability of some political actors to contest the elections” and to restrictions to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and internet access.
The US State Department said there were “undue restrictions” on freedoms of expressions and assembly while noting violence and attacks on media workers.
Some US lawmakers such as Democratic US Representatives Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar also expressed concerns, with Khanna saying “the military is interfering and rigging the result.”
Both Khanna and Omar urged the State Department not to recognize a winner until investigations are conducted into allegations of misconduct.
Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, said both EU and US State Department statements were “relatively mild … considering the great scale of the rigging that went down.”
Earlier this week, the UN human rights office denounced violence against political parties and candidates. It voiced concern over the “pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders and supporters” of Khan’s party.
The EU, the US and Britain said they would work with the next government and did not congratulate any candidate or party.
British foreign minister David Cameron’s statement noted “serious concerns raised about the fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections.”