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WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday questioned the fairness of Wednesday’s elections in Pakistan adding that it shared the concerns expressed by the European Union and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

In a statement released to the media, the US State Department underlined what it said were flaws in the pre-voting electoral process and the constraints placed on freedom of expression and association.

“The United States shares concerns about flaws in the pre-voting electoral process, as expressed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan,” said the department’s spokesperson Heather Nauert.

“These included constraints placed on freedoms of expression and association during the campaign period that were at odds with Pakistani authorities’ stated goal of a fully fair and transparent election.”

Ms Nauert said the United States concurs with the conclusions of the European Union Election Observation Mission, whose report notes that while there were positive changes to the legal framework for elections in Pakistan, these were “overshadowed by restrictions on freedom of expression and unequal campaign opportunities”.

The United States also “has deep reservations over the participation of terrorist-affiliated individuals in the elections,” said the US official while commending Pakistani voters for “fully rejecting these candidates” at the ballot box on Wednesday.

“Along with our international partners, the United States will continue to encourage a broadening of opportunities for political participation for all Pakistanis, and for the further strengthening of legitimate, democratic institutions,” said Ms Nauert.

“As Pakistan’s elected leaders form a new government, the United States will look for opportunities to work with them to advance our goals of security, stability, and prosperity in South Asia,” she added.

In the opening paragraph, the State Department also commended “the courage of the Pakistani people, including many women,” who turned out to vote and showed resolve to determine their country’s future.

“We condemn the horrific acts of terrorist violence that marred this process, including the latest attack outside a polling station in Quetta on election day. We offer our deepest condolences to the victims and their families, and wish a speedy recovery to those injured,” said the US official.

Ms Heather said that the development of strong democratic and civilian institutions of governance and a vibrant civil society was critical to Pakistan’s long-term stability and prosperity.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2018