ISLAMABAD: In the lead-up to upcoming elections on February 8, 2024, the Human Rights Comm­ission of Pakistan on Wednesday highlighted some critical observations shaping the country’s political landscape.

The HRCP said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) brought some clarity by confirming the election date, addressing some uncertainties. How­ever, persistent rumours of potential delays continued to circulate, creating an air of uncertainty.

Concerns arose regarding the restriction of freedoms, notably the curtailment of assembly and expression. Campaigning hurdles surfaced as party leaders faced arrests, disappearances, and constraints on participating in protests.

Internal struggles within the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) surfaced as the ECP requested intra-party elections for the retention of the party’s symbol. Simu­ltaneously, the PTI grappled with electing a new chairperson ahead of the impending polls.

In its assessments, the HRCP said there was a worrying debate around the possible rollback of the 18th Amendment as well as the National Finance Comm­ission formula — a position articulated previously by the country’s military establishment.

According to HRCP, security issues persisted, particularly impacting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balo­chistan. Alleged extrajudicial killings in Turbat, added to the security woes.

A contentious Senate resolution supporting military courts drew strong opposition from major political parties, despite their differences.

Even after a Supreme Court ruling deemed military trials of civilians unconstitutional, the former army officers faced jail sentences for ‘inciting sedition’, raising concerns about legal inconsistencies.

The gender gap in the electoral rolls persisted, with millions of women voters still unaccounted for, highlighting a critical issue requiring urgent attention.

As the elections drew nearer, these observations underscored the complex challenges and tensions shaping Pakistan’s political landscape, setting the stage for a pivotal electoral process ahead.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2023

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