WASHINGTON: The United States said on Monday Pakistan should hold an independent investigation into the claims of election irregularities through its legal system.

The US State Department’s spokesperson Matthew Miller, responding to a question about the demand for an independent probe, stated, “I don’t know what body are they proposing to conduct an independent investigation would be.” He added, “Right now, it’s a matter of first course, legal system play itself out in Pakistan, that’s the appropriate first step to take, and we think that’s the step that should be taken.”

Miller mentioned that the United States was willing to explore other options, with some US lawmakers urging the Biden administration not to recognize the results of the Feb 8 elections until the proposed probe is completed.

“If there are additional steps that ought to be entertained, we are happy to look into that,” Miller said. “Certainly, we want to see the freedom of assembly respected anywhere in the world.”

While congratulating the people of Pakistan for participating in the elections, Miller also congratulated Pak­istani poll workers, civil society, journalists, and election observers for their work to protect and uphold democratic and electoral institutions.

Responding to a question about the US reaction to rigging allegations, he said: “We did express concerns publicly, we also expressed those concerns privately and joined the EU, the UK and other countries in doing so with some irregularities that we saw in the process.”

The US, he said, had also conveyed to Pakistan the need for their government to respect the will of the election. “We emphasize that we want to see the rule of law, respect for constitution, free press, vibrant civil society respected in the run of the elections, and we continue to believe that is the case,” said Miller while emphasising Wash­ing­ton’s commitment to democracy and freedom.

The US official also acknowledged that restrictions placed on the internet and cellphone connections during the election had a negative impact on the process. “We condemn political and election-related violence and restrictions on internet and cell phone service; those negatively impacted the electoral service,” he said. “The claims of interference and fraud that we have seen raised we want to ensure are fully investigated by Pakistan’s legal system,” the US official added.

The US, he said, “continues to monitor the process in days ahead.”

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2024

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