The US administration has raised apprehensions regarding violence and limitations on freedom in Pakistan ahead of the upcoming general elections.
Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, US State Department Principal Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel expressed concerns about incidents of violence and restrictions on media freedom, freedom of expression, including internet freedom, as well as peaceful assembly and association.
Pakistan is gearing up for general elections on February 8, with journalists and experts expressing worries about political affairs and violence in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Over 128 million people are expected to cast their votes on Thursday, marking the fourth democratic election in the country since the end of former President General (retd) Musharraf’s martial law era.
A reporter sought the US administration’s comment on the fairness of the electoral process, highlighting that former Prime Minister Imran Khan is currently incarcerated and not permitted to contest the elections. In recent events, the Supreme Court stripped the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of its bat symbol.
“We’re closely monitoring Pakistan’s electoral process, and as we have stated, we want to see that process unfold in a manner that encourages broad participation with due respect for freedom of expression, assembly, and association,” Patel remarked.
Earlier this month, the US embassy in Pakistan urged American nationals to remain vigilant during the general elections, warning of potential disruptions to internet and cellular services. Netblocks, an independent observer, reported national-scale disruptions to platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s second virtual gathering.
“We’re concerned about some of the infringements we’ve witnessed in that space,” Patel stated, emphasizing that the people of Pakistan deserve the right to exercise their fundamental right to vote without fear, violence, or intimidation. He underscored that it is ultimately the decision of the people of Pakistan to determine their political future.