ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Saturday voiced its surprise over the international critique of the way elections were conducted, emphasising that such criticisms overlook the intricate nature of holding polls in the country.

“We are surprised by the negative tone of some of these statements, which neither take into account the complexity of the electoral process, nor acknowledge the free and enthusiastic exercise of the right to vote by tens of millions of Pakistanis,” FO said in a statement.

The statement came in response to criticism from the United States, European Union, Australia and a number of other countries over the election process that was marred by allegations of rigging and suppression of dissent.

The US and EU both raised concerns over alleged electoral interference, including the detention of political activists. They emphasised that all accusations of irregularities, manipulation, and fraudulent activities warrant comprehensive investigation.

Foreign Office claims there was no nationwide internet shutdown on polling day

US lawmakers also stated their reservations.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, expressed “serious concerns” about the integrity and inclusivity of the elections, highlighting issues with their fairness.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade expressed disappointment over the limitations on voters’ choices in Pakistan, highlighting that not every party was given the opportunity to participate in the polls.

‘Internet disruption’

Besides expressing its dismay and highlighting the peaceful participation of millions of Pakistanis in voting, the FO challenged reports of disruption of internet.

It clarified that there was no nationwide internet shutdown on the day of the polls. It was specifically mobile services that were temporarily suspended to prevent any terrorist activities, aiming to ensure the safety of the electoral process, it maintained.

“Pakistan has demonstrated its commitment to fostering a stable and democratic society through these elections,” the statement read.

It went on to assert that while constructive advice from international friends was welcome, premature and negative judgments were neither helpful nor reflective of the ground realities.

The government’s response reiterated Pakistan’s dedication to strengthening its democratic institutions. It emphasised that every election and the subsequent peaceful transition of power are steps towards realising the aspirations of the Pakistani people and the vision laid out by the nation’s founding fathers.

The statement affirmed Pakistan’s resolve to continue its progress toward establishing a vibrant democracy, underlining that such efforts are driven by the will of its people rather than external pressures or critiques.

However, several internet users reported outage of X (formerly Twitter) across the country, with Netblocks confirming the disruption to the micro-blogging website, according to Dawn.com.

Activist Usama Khilji noted that X remained inaccessible across Pakistan even after two days since the elections, amid reports of online allegations of poll rigging.

Netblocks confirmed that the live metrics show a nation-scale disruption to X/Twitter across Pakistan. But the users managed to get access to the platform after 5:30pm.

Internet users in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkiye and Germany also reported facing problems with the platform, as they were unable to load tweets.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2024

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