WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Thursday expressed concern over election-related violence and restrictions on internet and cellular access in Pakistan on the polling day.

At a daily news briefing, Vedant Patel, the principal deputy spokesperson, also underscored the importance of a transparent and unrestricted electoral process.

When asked if the United States would accept the results of a tainted election, Mr Patel said: “We are going to continue to monitor the electoral process. We are not going to get ahead of any official results. And we want to see a process that took place in a way that allowed for broad participation, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.”

Noting that internet and mobile phone access was restricted across Pakistan on the election day, he acknowledged that “there were some clear restrictions on the exercise of freedom that took place, and those, of course, are concerning”.

Mr Patel began his remarks by acknowledging that millions of Pakistanis went to the polls, sating: “I would reiterate that Pakistan’s future leadership is for the Pakistanis to decide, and our interest continues to be in the democratic process.”

Underlining the importance of a peaceful electoral process, he said: “We strongly condemn all instances of election-related violence, both in the weeks preceding elections as well as those that transpired on the election day.”

He noted that the violence affected a broad range of political parties across Pakistan and impacted polling stations and election officers.

Responding to a question about restrictions placed on freedom of expression during the entire electoral process, he said: “We are tracking reports of restrictions on internet and cellphone access across Pakistan on polling day. And we, along with the international community, will continue to emphasise the importance of democratic institutions and free press, vibrant civil society, and the expanded opportunities for political participation of all of Pakistan’s citizens.”

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2024

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