Mumtaz Zahra Baloch
Mumtaz Zahra Baloch

KARACHI: The Forei­­gn Office has responded to the UN’s concerns over terrorist attacks targeting election campaigns and the participation of wom­en in the electoral process.

The reply came a day after the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced concerns over terrorist atta­cks and the violation of the law requiring political parties to award five per cent of tickets to women.

In a statement released on Wednesday, FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said the authorities have finalised security plans for the countrywide exercise, as per relevant laws.

“Pakistan is fully committed to foster an inclusive democratic process, uphold the rule of law and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed in its laws and Constitution,” the statement added.

While replying to the UN body’s concerns over the “harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions” of PTI leaders and supporters, the spokesperson said that Pakistan’s judicial system ensures “fair trial” and legal recourse is available for “any complaints in the electoral process”.

FO confirms Afghanistan, Iran border crossings to stay closed today

Earlier on Tuesday, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, urged the government to “uphold the fundamental freedoms necessary for an inclusive and meaningful democratic process”.

“Pakistan’s democratic gains over the past 15 years have been hard-won in the face of many security and economic challenges. Elections are an important moment to reaffirm the country’s commitment to human rights and democracy and to ensure the right to participation of all its people, including women and minorities.”

Borders closed

In a separate statement, the FO spokesperson also confirmed that border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan have been closed “to ensure full security during the general elections”.

The border crossings will remain closed both for cargo and pedestrians on Thursday, and normal operations will resume on Friday.

The UN body on human rights also expressed concerns over the security situation in the lead-up to the election. It said 24 attacks targeting political parties and election campaigns have been reported.

The attacks have mostly occurred in Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa and Balochistan, where candidates, parties’ election offices and government buildings have been targeted.

Earlier on Monday, the US State Department voiced apprehension over challenges to freedom of expression during the current electoral process.

Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel, in a news briefing, affirmed, “We want to see that process take place in a way that facilitates broad participation with respect for freedom of expression, assembly, and association.”

He added, “We are concerned by some of the infringements that we have seen in that space.”

Highlighting the significance of citizens’ rights, Mr Patel underscored, “Pakistanis deserve to exercise their fundamental right to choose their future leaders through free and fair elections without fear, violence, or intimidation. And it’s ultimately for the people of Pakistan to decide their political future.”

Mr Patel expressed concerns about “incidents of violence and restrictions on media freedom, freedom of expression, including internet freedom, and peaceful assembly and association”.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2024

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