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US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu Addresses Election Irregularities in Pakistan

US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu is set to testify before a Congressional panel today, where he will discuss the recent general elections in Pakistan and the future of US-Pakistan relations. The hearing, titled ‘Pakistan After the Elections: Examining the Future of Democracy in Pakistan and the US-Pakistan Relationship,’ has been announced by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee.

In his written testimony, Lu raised several issues concerning the two countries and outlined the future direction of US policy in Pakistan. He highlighted the irregularities that occurred during the February 8 polls and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to strengthening democratic institutions in Pakistan.

Lu pointed out that the State Department had issued a clear statement the day after the general elections in Pakistan, noting undue restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. The department condemned electoral violence, restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as attacks on media workers and restrictions on access to the internet and telecommunication services.

The Assistant Secretary of State expressed particular concern about electoral abuses and violence that occurred in the weeks leading up to the elections. He stated, “First, there were attacks against police, politicians, and political gatherings by terrorist groups. Second, many journalists, particularly female journalists, were harassed and abused by party supporters. And several political leaders were disadvantaged by the inability to register specific candidates and political parties.”

Despite these challenges, Lu also identified positive elements in the Pakistani general elections. He noted that over 60 million Pakistanis voted, including over 21 million women. Voters elected 50% more women to parliament than they did in 2018. In addition to a record number of women candidates, there were record numbers of members of religious and ethnic minority groups and young people running for seats in parliament.

Lu concluded his testimony by stating that voters in Pakistan had a choice. He noted that a range of political parties won seats in national and provincial assemblies, and three different political parties now lead Pakistan’s four provinces. More than 5,000 independent observers were in the field, and their organization concluded that the conduct of the election was largely competitive and orderly, while noting some irregularities in the compilation of results.

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