Pakistan’s electoral process internal sovereign affair, FO says

Published February 15, 2024
Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch at a weekly press briefing on Thursday. — photo courtesy Radio Pakistan
Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch at a weekly press briefing on Thursday. — photo courtesy Radio Pakistan

The Foreign Office (FO) said on Thursday that the electoral process in Pakistan was an internal sovereign affair and the nation was committed to upholding its constitutional obligations.

The remarks were passed by FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch in response to media queries regarding the global response to the February 8 election, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

Nearly 60.6 million Pakistanis voted in the country’s 12th general elections last week. However, the poll day was marred by a day-long suspension of cellular services and allegations of rigging, prompting criticism from several countries.

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.

Similar concerns were also expressed by British Foreign Minister David Cameron and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Separately, a report by the International Consor­tium of Investigative Journa­lists (ICIJ) highlighted that the contentious nature of these polls was unlikely to bring stability to the nation of over 240 million.

Last week, the FO had voiced its surprise over the international critique of the way elections were conducted, emphasising that such criticisms overlooked 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.

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

At a weekly press briefing today, Baloch emphasised Pakistan’s “democratic nature” and highlighted the significant participation of millions of voters in the general elections.

According to the Radio Pakistan report, she said that Pakistan welcomed foreign observers, including a group from the Commonwealth, demonstrating the country’s commitment to transparency in the electoral process.

Pakistan takes its constitutional obligations seriously, the FO spokesperson said, adding that the Pakistani people were entitled to enjoy their right to freedom and democracy.

“Any step that Pakistan takes in this regard is in conformity with its own constitutional obligations and not influenced by external advice,” she added.

Baloch further pointed out that the interim report of the Commonwealth observer group also highlighted the “transparency and participatory nature” of the general elections.

Calls for probe into election irregularities

On Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres 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, 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 UN spokesperson emphasised the importance of resolving issues and disputes through established legal frameworks, stating that 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”.

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.

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