US monitoring Pakistan’s electoral process ‘quite closely’

ISLAMABAD (PEN) : Expressing concern over violent incidents as well as restrictions on freedom of expression and media in Pakistan ahead of the general elections, the US State Department has said the United States was monitoring the electoral process in Pakistan “quite closely”.

On a question specifically mentioning former prime minister Imran Khan’s jail term amid national elections and restrictions on his party, US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said, “We’re continuing to monitor Pakistan’s electoral process quite closely, and as we have said, we want to see that process takes place in a way that facilitates broad participation with respect for freedom of expression, assembly, and associations.”

Patel said the US had concerns over all the incidents of violence and restrictions on media freedom, freedom of expression, including internet freedom, as well as peaceful assembly and association.

“We’re concerned by some of the infringements that we’ve seen in that space,” the State Department spokesperson maintained.

However, he said that Pakistanis deserved to exercise their fundamental right to choose their future leaders through free and fair elections without fear, violence, or intimidation, and it was ultimately for the people of Pakistan to decide their political future.

On February 3, the Embassy of the United States had issued a travel advisory for its citizens as Pakistan braced for general elections, slated to be held on February 8.

In its advisory, the embassy had asked Americans to remain vigilant and aware of the locations of political rallies occurring in areas they intended to visit.

“On February 8, election day, areas around polling stations may be crowded, and US citizens not eligible to participate in Pakistan’s elections should avoid them,” it had advised.

The embassy had warned that disruptions to internet and cellular service could occur leading up to and throughout election day and immediately following.