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US, EU, UK respond to Pakistan’s general elections

Polling officer mark the thumb of a voter before issuing ballot paper in Rawalpindi polling station during general elections on February 8, 2024. — APP
  • US condemns restrictions on access to internet, telecom services.
  • EU calls upon relevant authorities to probe election irregularities.
  • New Pakistani govt must be accountable to people it serves: UK.

After accomplishing all challenging phases related to the conduct of general elections on February 8, Pakistan’s poll organising authority is now preparing to unveil the nationwide outcomes of the hectic electoral event as the compilation process of the final vote results has been underway for more than 24 hours.

Yesterday’s countrywide voting process was witnessed by a total of 452 observers comprising 349 foreign journalists, and 43 foreign and 60 local observers who covered and closely inspected the major democratic event in the world’s fifth-largest democracy.

Despite the day-long disruption of cellular and internet services, as well as security threats, the polling process was generally peaceful across the country, except for terrorist incidents that occurred in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces.

Besides, many parties who had shared parliamentary roles in previous governments raised questions on the credibility of results after it was delayed despite assurance from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for timely releasing the official results.

Meanwhile, the caretaker government and the top electoral body negated allegations of any deliberated delay in compiling and releasing final results after maintaining complex procedures to ensure their transparency.

United States

— Matthew Miller, US State Department

Millions of Pakistanis made their voices heard by voting in Pakistan’s elections on February 8, with record numbers of Pakistani women, members of religious and ethnic minority groups, and youth registered. We commend Pakistani poll workers, civil society, journalists and election observers for their work to protect and uphold Pakistan’s democratic and electoral institutions. We now look forward to timely, complete results that reflect the will of the Pakistani people.

We join credible international and local election observers in their assessment that these elections included undue restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. We condemn electoral violence, restrictions on the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including attacks on media workers, and restrictions on access to the Internet and telecommunication services, and are concerned about allegations of interference in the electoral process. Claims of interference or fraud should be fully investigated.

The United States is prepared to work with the next Pakistani government, regardless of political party, to advance our shared interests. We look forward to bolstering our partnership by supporting Pakistan’s economy through trade and investment. We will continue to support Pakistan strengthening its democratic institutions, engage through the U.S.-Pakistan Green Alliance Framework, broaden people-to-people ties, and promote human rights including freedom of expression. We are also committed to strengthening our security cooperation and creating an environment of safety and security that affords the Pakistani people the peace, democracy, and progress they deserve.

United Kingdom

— Lord Cameron, Foreign Secretary

The UK and Pakistan enjoy a close and long-standing relationship, underpinned by strong links between our people. Following yesterday’s elections, we commend all those who voted.

We recognise, however, serious concerns raised about the fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections. We regret that not all parties were formally permitted to contest the elections and that legal processes were used to prevent some political leaders from participation, and to prevent the use of recognisable party symbols. We also note the restrictions imposed on internet access on polling day, significant delays to the reporting of results and claims of irregularities in the counting process.

The UK urges authorities in Pakistan to uphold fundamental human rights including free access to information, and the rule of law. This includes the right to a fair trial, through adherence to due process and an independent and transparent judicial system, free from interference.

The election of a civilian government with the mandate to deliver crucial reforms is essential for Pakistan to flourish. The new government must be accountable to the people it serves, and work to represent the interests of all Pakistan’s citizens and communities with equity and justice. We look forward to working with Pakistan’s next government to achieve this, and across the range of our shared interests.

European Union

— Peter Stano, Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

The European Union takes note of the completion of the polling in the general elections, which took place on 8 February in Pakistan, following several months of postponement and uncertainty, and in the context of a tense security environment.

The participation by the Pakistani people to exercise their right to vote, despite systemic barriers still faced by women and persons belonging to minorities, demonstrates their commitment to democracy and the rule of law. The EU welcomes the increased number of women registered to vote compared to the last elections. We regret the lack of a level playing field due to the inability of some political actors to contest the elections, restrictions to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression both online and offline, restrictions of access to the internet, as well as allegations of severe interference in the electoral process, including arrests of political activists.

We therefore call upon the relevant authorities to ensure a timely and full investigation of all reported election irregularities and to implement the recommendations of the upcoming EU Election Expert Mission report.

The authorities were faced with the challenging task of countering serious terrorist threats and attacks. The EU condemns all acts of violence, which took place in the lead up to the elections and calls on all parties and actors to use peaceful and democratic mechanisms to settle differences, refraining from further violence.

The EU attaches paramount importance to political pluralism, democratic values, independent media, vibrant civil society, judicial independence and international human rights standards, which are key for democratic elections. We call on all political actors in Pakistan to engage in a peaceful and inclusive dialogue aiming at the formation of a stable government and to respect human rights in line with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, as well as with international treaties to which Pakistan is party.

Pakistan is an important partner for the European Union and we look forward to continuing to work with the Government of Pakistan on the priorities agreed in the EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan. We encourage Pakistan to continue reforms in the areas of human rights, good governance, as well as labour rights and environmental standards, to address the shortcomings outlined in the GSP+ report of November 2023, and to continue the necessary economic reforms.

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