Washington, 10 February 2024 (TDI): In the aftermath of Thursday’s contentious vote in Pakistan, the United States, Britain, and the European Union on Friday separately expressed concerns about Pakistan’s electoral process.
Amidst reports of irregularities, the trio of global stakeholders has called for a thorough investigation into the matter.
At the heart of the electoral contest were the competing forces of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party and candidates aligned with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Despite both camps declaring victory independently, concerns over the legitimacy of Pakistan’s electoral process persist.
Moreover, the elections, which determined 265 seats in the National Assembly, necessitate 133 seats for a simple majority.
However, allegations of interference, including the arrest of activists, have cast a shadow over the electoral integrity, prompting calls for comprehensive scrutiny into claims of irregularities, interference, and fraud.
Of particular note is the plight of the PTI founder, currently incarcerated, with his party barred from participation in the polls.
Nevertheless, independent candidates, predominantly supported by PTI’s founder, secured a significant portion of the seats, winning 98 out of the 245 counted by 1830 GMT. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party secured 69 seats.
The EU’s statement underscored a “lack of a level playing field,” citing the inability of certain political actors to participate in the elections, coupled with restrictions on fundamental freedoms such as assembly, expression, and internet access.
Echoing these sentiments, the US State Department highlighted “undue restrictions” on freedom of expression and assembly, alongside instances of violence and attacks targeting media personnel.
US lawmakers, including Democratic Representatives Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar, have also voiced their concerns, urging the State Department to withhold recognition of any winner until thorough investigations into alleged misconduct are completed.
Michael Kugelman, Director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, characterized the statements from the EU and US State Department as “relatively mild,” given the significant scale of reported irregularities.
In a unified stance, the EU, US, and UK have pledged to engage with the upcoming government, refraining from extending congratulations to any candidate or party.
Furthermore, the British Foreign Minister David Cameron emphasized “serious concerns” regarding the fairness and inclusivity of the elections.