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US Senator Questions Credibility of Pakistan’s Election Outcome

US Senator Chris Van Hollen has called on the Pakistani authorities to “fully investigate allegations of fraud and electoral interference” in the general elections held on February 8, 2024.

In a letter to Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Masood Khan, the Senator expressed his concern over the reports of unfair restrictions on political expression and rigging in the polls, which were marred by controversy and violence.

He said that the new government, which is expected to be formed by a coalition of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), would face difficulties in addressing the economic and security challenges facing Pakistan without the trust and support of the people.

 

“Respecting the decision of the Pakistani people, expressed through their votes, is the only way a new government will be empowered to tackle issues facing Pakistan such as negotiating a new IMF agreement,” he wrote.

The Senator’s letter came amid widespread protests and petitions by various political parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), who have rejected the election results and accused the military establishment of orchestrating a massive pre-poll rigging in favour of the PML-N’s leader Nawaz Sharif.

The PTI’s leader Sher Afzal Marwat has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking to halt the process of formation of federal and provincial governments and to set aside the election results of all constituencies, alleging that they were prepared in violation of the Election Act 2017.

The PTI has also claimed that its former ally, the former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaqat Ali Chatha, who resigned last week, had confessed to his involvement in large-scale electoral rigging in the garrison city. However, Chatha has later retracted his allegations and said that he was coerced by the PTI to make false statements.

Meanwhile, the former prime minister Imran Khan, who was ousted from power by a no-confidence motion in 2022 and later convicted for corruption and barred from politics for five years, has written to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) asking the global lender to conduct an audit of the election results before approving any new loan for Pakistan.

The IMF, which has been in talks with Pakistan for a $6 billion bailout package, has said that it is monitoring the political situation in the country and that it expects the new government to continue the reforms agreed upon by the previous government.

The US State Department has also urged Pakistan to ensure a full and transparent investigation of “any claims of interference or fraud” in the elections as per its own laws and procedures.

In a statement, the State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the US respects the sovereignty of Pakistan and that the formation of a new government is an “internal” Pakistani matter.

“But as I said, when it comes to the — any claims of interference or allegations of irregularities, we want to see those fully investigated,” he said.

The election commission of Pakistan, which has announced the provisional results of the elections, has defended the credibility and transparency of the polls and said that it is ready to address any complaints or grievances through legal channels.

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