Wednesday June 19, 2024

FO 'surprised' by criticism of countries on Pakistan Feb 8 polls

US, UK and EU raised questions on "credibility of polls and lack of fairness" in 2024 polls

By Web Desk
February 10, 2024
Polling staff start counting votes as polls end during countrys national elections in Karachi on February 8, 2024. — AFP
Polling staff start counting votes as polls end during country's national elections in Karachi on February 8, 2024. — AFP 

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Saturday said that it was surprised by the "negative tone" of statements issued by some organisations and countries including the United States on the general elections held in Pakistan on February 8. 

A day earlier, the US, the United Kingdom and the European Union raised questions on the "credibility of polls and lack of fairness" in the 2024 polls. 

In its statement, the FO said that it took note of the statements, adding that they neither take into account the complexity of the electoral process nor acknowledge the free and enthusiastic exercise of the right to vote by tens of millions of Pakistanis

"The FO said that these statements ignore the undeniable fact that Pakistan held general elections, peacefully and successfully, while dealing with serious security threats resulting primarily from foreign-sponsored terrorism.

"Some statements are not even factual. There was no nationwide internet shutdown. Only mobile services were suspended for the day to avoid terrorist incidents on the polling day. The elections exercise has demonstrated that the concerns of many commentators were misplaced," it added.

The statement added that Pakistan conducted the polls as part of its commitment to building a stable and democratic society. "While we value constructive advice from our friends, making negative commentary even before the completion of the electoral process is neither constructive nor objective," the FO said.

Pakistan will continue to work towards building a vibrant democratic polity, adding that every election and peaceful transition of power brings us closer to that goal.

"We do this not on account of the concerns expressed by others but because that is the aspiration of our people and the vision of our founding fathers," the statement concluded.

Here's what the countries said on Pakistan's elections.

United States

— Matthew Miller, US State Department

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.

United Kingdom

— Lord Cameron, Foreign Secretary

We recognise 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.

European Union

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

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 a party.