WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Tuesday urged the newly elected government in Pakistan to hold a thorough investigation into alleged electoral irregularities in the country.

The statement comes a day after Washington congratulated Maryam Nawaz on her election as Punjab’s first woman chief minister, and reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening its robust partnership with Pakistan under new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

During a news briefing on Tuesday, the department’s spokesperson Matthew Miller reiterated the White House’s commitment to working with the new Pakistani government.

“There was a competitive election in Pakistan; millions of people made their voices heard,” the US official said, adding: “A new government has been formed, and we will, of course, work with that government.”

State Dept condemns government-imposed shutdown of internet platforms

However, he acknowledged “there were reported irregularities, and there have been challenges brought by political parties to the results. We want to see those challenges, those irregularities fully investigated.”

Miller also stressed the importance of addressing concerns raised by political parties and ensuring a complete investigation to clarify the situation.

He underlined Washington’s commitment to freedom of expression in Pakistan and condemned any government-impo­sed shutdowns of internet platforms.

He pointed out that the State Department has condemned the partial or complete government-imposed shutdown of internet platforms in the past as well.

“We have and will continue to emphasize the importance of respecting these fundamental freedoms during our engagements with Pakistani officials,” he said.

The comments highlighted Washington’s dedication to emphasizing the importance of respecting fundamental freedoms in engagements with Pakistani officials while ex-pressing support for the new government.

Last week, Pakistan’s Foreign Office rebuffed American ‘directions’ to probe electoral discrepancies, emphasising that it will not succumb to external dictates.

“We believe in our own sovereign right to make decisions about Pakistan’s internal affairs,” Ms Bal­och said while replying to the comments made by her US counterpart reg­arding allegations of misconduct in the elections held on February 8.

The rebuke came after Mr Miller, at an earlier presser, had said any claims of interference or fraud “should be fully and transparently investigated in accordance with Pakis­tan’s own laws and procedures”.

Mr Miller isn’t the only US official to express concerns over the polls. Around 35 Congress members, led by Democratic Party’s Gregorio Casar, have written a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging not to acknowledge the new government in Islamabad formed after the election.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2024

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