US Urges Pakistan to Ensure Free and Fair Elections Amid Violence and Censorship

The United States has expressed its concern over the violence and censorship that have marred the electoral process in Pakistan, ahead of the general elections scheduled for February 8.

The US State Department said on Monday that it was closely monitoring the situation in Pakistan and called for a broad participation of the people with respect for their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

“We want to see that process takes place in a way that facilitates broad participation with respect for freedom of expression, assembly, and associations,” US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a press briefing.

He added that the US was concerned by some of the infringements on media freedom, internet freedom, and peaceful assembly and association that it had observed in Pakistan.

He also said that the US respected the sovereignty of Pakistan and its people’s right to choose their future leaders through free and fair elections without fear, violence, or intimidation.

The US statement came amid reports of violent incidents and crackdowns on opposition parties and media outlets in Pakistan.

Former prime minister Imran Khan, who is the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is currently serving a jail term on corruption charges and has been barred from contesting the elections.

His party has accused the caretaker government and the military establishment of rigging the elections in favor of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Several PTI (Independent) candidates and workers have been arrested, attacked, or harassed by the authorities and their rivals in the run-up to the polls.

The media in Pakistan has also faced restrictions and pressure from the government and the military, which have tried to control the narrative and silence dissenting voices.

Several journalists have been arrested, assaulted, or threatened for their critical reporting on the elections and the state of affairs in the country.

Some media outlets have been taken off air or blocked online for airing or publishing content that was deemed unfavorable to the government or the military.

The internet and cellular services have also been disrupted or suspended in some parts of the country, especially in the restive Balochistan province, where a separatist insurgency has been going on for years

The US Embassy in Islamabad has issued a travel advisory for its citizens, warning them of the potential security risks and urging them to avoid the areas where political rallies and polling stations are located.

The embassy also advised the Americans to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings and to follow the instructions of the local authorities.

The general elections in Pakistan are seen as a crucial test for the country’s democracy, which has been interrupted by several military coups and interventions in the past.

The elections will decide the fate of the 342-member National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies for the next five years.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), more than 105 million voters are registered to cast their ballots in more than 85,000 polling stations across the country.

More than 12,000 candidates are vying for the 272 general seats in the National Assembly and 577 general seats in the provincial assemblies.

The remaining 70 seats in the National Assembly and 132 seats in the provincial assemblies are reserved for women and minorities and will be allocated to the parties according to their proportional representation.

The ECP has deployed more than 1.6 million polling staff and security personnel to ensure a smooth and peaceful conduct of the elections.

The ECP has also introduced an electronic voting system (EMS) to transmit the results from the polling stations to the central server in real time.

However, the EMS has faced technical glitches and criticism from some parties and experts, who have questioned its reliability and transparency.

The ECP has assured that the EMS is only a supplementary system and that the results will be verified by the paper ballots and the forms filled by the polling agents.

The ECP has also ruled out any possibility of an internet shutdown on the election day, despite the reports of such a plan by the government and the military.

The ECP has said that it will announce the official results within 24 hours of the closing of the polls.

The preliminary results are expected to start coming in by 7 pm on February 8.

The main contenders for the power are the PML-N, the PTI (Independents), and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by former president Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

The PML-N is seeking another term in power, claiming credit for the economic development and the security improvement in the country.

The PTI (Independents) is challenging the PML-N on the basis of its anti-corruption agenda and its promise of a new Pakistan.

The PPP is hoping to revive its fortunes after losing ground in the previous elections and to form a coalition government with other smaller parties.

The elections are also expected to witness the rise of some new and religious parties, such as the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which has gained popularity for its hardline stance on the blasphemy issue.

The elections are also likely to be influenced by the regional and international dynamics, especially the relations with India, Afghanistan, China, and the US

The elections are being held amid heightened tensions with India over the Kashmir issue and the cross-border attacks.

The elections are also being held amid the ongoing peace talks between the US and the Taliban in Afghanistan, where Pakistan has a key role to play.

The elections are also being held amid the deepening economic and strategic partnership with China, which has invested billions of dollars in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

The elections are also being held amid the strained ties with the US, which has accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists and cut off its military aid.

The elections are being watched closely by the international community, which has urged Pakistan to ensure a free and fair electoral process and to respect the will of the people.

The elections are also being seen as an opportunity for the people of Pakistan to exercise their democratic right and to shape their future.

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