The United States, Britain and the European Union separately expressed concerns on Friday about Pakistan’s electoral process following Thursday’s vote and called for an investigation into reported irregularities.
The main battle was between the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the candidates supported by former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Both declared victory separately.
Elections were held for 265 seats in the National Assembly and a political party needs 133 seats for a simple majority.
The US and EU both cited allegations of interference, including arrests of activists, and added that allegations of irregularities, interference and fraud should be fully investigated .
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Khan is in prison and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was barred from the elections. Independents, mostly backed by Khan, won the largest number of seats – 98 of the 245 counted as of 1830 GMT – while Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party won 69 seats.
Khan believes the powerful military is behind a crackdown to wipe out his party, while analysts and opponents say Sharif is backed by the generals.
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The EU statement highlighted a “lack of a level playing field”, attributing this to “the inability of some political actors to contest elections” and restrictions on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and to access to the Internet.
The US State Department said there were “unjustified restrictions” on freedoms of expression and assembly, while highlighting violence and attacks against media workers.
Some US lawmakers, such as Democratic US Representatives Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar, have also expressed concerns, with Khanna saying “the military is interfering and rigging the outcome.”
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Both Khanna and Omar urged the State Department not to recognize a winner until there is an investigation into the allegations of misconduct.
Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, said the EU and US State Department’s statements were “relatively moderate… given the scale of the rigging that took place.” collapsed.”
Earlier this week, the UN human rights office denounced violence against political parties and candidates. He expressed concern over the “pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders and supporters” of Khan’s party.
The EU, United States and Britain said they would work with the next government and did not congratulate any candidate or party.
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron’s statement noted “serious concerns were raised about the fairness and lack of inclusiveness of the elections.”
Several legal cases were filed against Khan, which disqualified him as a candidate and sentenced him to lengthy prison terms. He denies any wrongdoing.
Khan was ousted in 2022 after falling out with the country’s powerful military, which denies interference in politics. His party won the last national elections in 2018.