WASHINGTON: A day after US State Department endorsed the demand for probing allegations of election rigging through legal means, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged authorities and political leaders in Pakistan to address the post-election situation through legal means, emphasising the need for a peaceful resolution.

At a news briefing at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday, the secretary-general’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, conveyed his message, stating that the UN chief “urges the authorities and political leaders (in Pakistan) to maintain a calm atmosphere and to reject and refrain from all forms of violence and avoid any actions that could increase or enflame tensions”.

The political landscape in Pakistan remains unsettled following the Feb 8 elections, where no political party secured a clear majority to form a government. Despite the military’s reservations and allegations of poll fraud, supporters of imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan emerged unexpectedly strong.

Dujarric said the secretary-general was closely monitoring the situation and reiterated the call for calm and the rejection of violence.

Authorities, political leaders urged to maintain calm

The UN spokesperson emphasised the importance of resolving issues and disputes through established legal frameworks, stating that Mr Guterres “calls for the resolving of all issues and disputes through the established legal frameworks and for human rights and the rule of law to be fully respected in the interest of the people of Pakistan”.

US keeping an eye

Earlier, in Washington, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller explained the United States’ stance on the matter, stating, “The claims of interference and fraud that we have seen raised, we want to ensure are fully investigated by Pakistan’s legal system, and we will be continuing to monitor that in the days ahead.”

He acknowledged the competitive nature of the election, but raised concerns about instances of political and election-related violence, as well as restrictions on internet and cell phone services negatively impacting the electoral process.

In a previous statement, UN secretary general Guterres had expressed concern about violence shortly after the elections concluded in the country, particularly highlighting the suspension of mobile communications services on election day.

The UN human rights office had also denounced violence against political parties and candidates in the lead-up to the vote.

The statements indicate that the United Nations and the United States are closely watching the evolving situation in Pakistan and want the dispute to be resolved peacefully. Their emphasis is on respecting human rights and democratic norms while maintaining the rule of law as well.

Both have also emphasised the need for thoroughly investigating the allegations of interference and fraud but within Pakistan’s legal system. They also assured the Pakistani voters that they would continue to monitor the developments in the aftermath of the elections.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2024

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