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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 23 April 2024

Pakistan's Foreign Office dismisses United States 'directions' on probing alleged election rigging

Foreign Office spokes­person Mum­taz Zahra Baloch in her weekly press address categorically said that 'no country could give directions' to Pakistan, an independent and sovereign nation

PTI Washington Published 02.03.24, 11:15 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

Pakis­tan has dismissed the US suggestion to probe discrepancies in the February 8 general elections, asserting that it will not succumb to external dictates.

Foreign Office spokes­person Mum­taz Zahra Baloch in her weekly press address on Friday categorically said that "no country could give directions" to Pakistan, an independent and sovereign nation.

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“We believe in our own sovereign right to make decisions about Pakistan’s internal affairs,” Dawn News quoted Bal­och as saying in reply to the comments made by her US counterpart reg­arding allegations of misconduct in the controversy-marred general elections.

Earlier this week, US State Department spoke­sperson Matt­hew Miller said any claims of interference or fraud “should be fully and transparently investigated per Pakis­tan’s laws and procedures”.

On another occasion, Miller said: “Concerning inv­estigations into reported irregularities, we want to see those investigations proceed … [and] wrapped up as soon as possible.” The comments were prompted by accusations, particularly by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party-backed candidates, of tampering with and manipulation of election results.

The results were announced after an unprecedented delay by the Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The ECP and the caretaker government have strongly refuted the accusations, urging political parties to pursue legal remedies for their complaints through courts and other appropriate channels.

Miller is not the only US official to express concerns over the polls.

Citing "strong evidence" of election rigging in Pakistan, a group of influential lawmakers, including Muslim legislators, belonging to the ruling Democratic Party has urged US President Joe Biden to withhold "recognition" of a new government in Islamabad until a transparent and credible investigation is conducted.

The February 8 general election, marred by allegations of widespread rigging, in Pakistan, resulted in a hung Parliament with independent candidates backed by the PTI party winning more than 90 seats at the 266-member National Assembly.

Ex-premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) bagged 75 seats and former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) got 54 seats.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) won 17 seats.

In a joint letter to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the lawmakers expressed concerns about "pre-and post-poll rigging in Pakistan’s recent parliamentary elections", urging the US Congress to "withhold recognition of a new government in Pakistan until a thorough, transparent, and credible investigation of election interference has been conducted".

Islamabad is a long-standing ally of Washington and it is in the interest of the US to ensure that democracy thrives in Pakistan and that election results reflect the interests of the Pakistani people, not the interests of the Pakistani elite and military, the letter sent on Wednesday said.

Since the election resulted in a hung Parliament, the PML-N and the PPP have struck a post-poll deal with four other parties to form a coalition government, which may effectively end Khan's chances of returning to power.

A party must win 133 out of 265 contested seats in the 266-member National Assembly to form the government.

PTI has rejected the attempts by the PML-N and the PPP to form a coalition government, warning that robbing its public endorsement by the "mandate thieves" will result in the worst political instability.

"Given the strong evidence of pre- and post-poll rigging, we urge you to wait until a thorough, transparent, and credible investigation has been conducted before recognising a new Pakistani government. Without taking this necessary step, you risk enabling anti-democratic behaviour by Pakistani authorities and could undermine the democratic will of the Pakistani people," the US lawmakers said.

The letter urged Pakistani authorities to release anyone who has been detained for engaging in political speech or activity and tasked State Department officials in Pakistan with gathering information about such cases and advocating for their release.

It urged the Biden administration to "make clear" to Pakistani authorities that US law provides for accountability for acts that violate human rights, undermine democracy, or further corruption, "including the potential for military and other cooperation to be halted".

Around 35 Congress members, led by Democratic Party’s Gregorio Casar, have written a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging not to acknowledge the new government in Islamabad until the cash-strapped country formally investigated the rigging allegations.

In response to a question about the letter, Baloch said: “This is a communication between public officials in the US and is not addressed to the government of Pakistan. We therefore have no comments to offer on such letters.” Baloch said Pakistan is a “dynamic democracy” and possesses the necessary domestic frameworks to address issues related to elections or democratic processes.

The spokesperson also refrained from commenting on PTI founder Imran Khan's letter to the International Monetary Fund which linked any future financial support with the election audit.

"As you know the (interim) prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has made a statement on this matter. The Ministry of Finance takes the lead on IMF-related issues, so they will be in a better position to comment on this subject,” she said.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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