The United States administration has reiterated its call for an investigation into allegations of electoral fraud, stressing the need for the Pakistani government to respect the will of the election.
“The claims of interference and fraud that we have seen raised we want to ensure are fully investigated by Pakistan’s legal system, and we will be continuing to monitor that in the days ahead,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a press briefing on Monday.
Last week, the US administration joined credible international and local election observers in their assessment that the general elections included undue restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
The country demanded that claims of interference or fraud during the general elections should be fully investigated.
Millions of Pakistanis made their voices heard by voting in the polls on February 8, with record numbers of Pakistani women, members of religious and ethnic minority groups, and youth registered.
Elections were held for 265 seats in the national assembly and a political party needs 134 seats for a simple majority. Independent candidates backed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf secured a maximum number of National Assembly seats, according to the provisional results by the Election Commission of Pakistan. The PML-N emerged as the single largest party.
But caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar shunned the concerns of the Western countries over the general elections. “For me, the demand of a PTI individual is more important than the US government, United Kingdom government, and the European Union combined,” he said at a press conference in Islamabad.
Miller in his response congratulated the Pakistani people for participating in the election and poll workers, civil society members, journalists, and election observers.
“We did express concerns publicly – we also expressed those concerns privately and joined the EU, the UK, and other countries in doing so – with some irregularities that we saw in the process. We’ve conveyed the need for the Pakistani Government to respect the will of the election.”
Miller reiterated that the US wanted to see the rule of law, respect for the Constitution, free press, and vibrant civil society respected in the run-up to the election.
“We continue to believe that’s the case,” he said and condemned political and election-related violence and restrictions on internet and cell phone service. He went on to add that such events negatively impacted the electoral service.
Working with new govt
When asked about their willingness to work with the new government, he said that there was not a new government yet in the South Asian country.
The country is likely to have a coalition government in the Centre as the PML-N and the PPP have agreed to work together to bring stability to the country. The N-league has also reached out to the MQM-P for the formation of a coalition government.
“But one of the things that we have said leading up to the election and we’ll continue to make clear is that whoever the Pakistani people choose to represent them, we will work with that government. And as to the claims of fraud, we want to see those fully investigated,” Miller said.
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He added that elections in Pakistan were competitive, however, there were irregularities.
“We want to see them investigated. But ultimately, we respect the democratic process and we’re ready to work with the government once it’s formed.”
In response to a query, he stated that the US wanted to see the freedom of assembly respected anywhere in the world.