US is ‘ready’ to work with any government in Pakistan
State Department spokesman says Washington backs freedom of assembly: Calls for independent inquiry into poll irregularities: Term poll results ‘competitive vote’: UN chief urges Pakistanis to resolve all post-election issues through set legal mechanisms
By News Desk
February 13, 2024 09:04 AM
The United States is ready to work with any government that comes to power in Pakistan and called for an independent probe into election irregularities, reported 24NewsHD TV channel on Tuesday.
The United States has also called for respect of freedom of assembly as Pakistani authorities warned they would ban protests by supporters of jailed prime minister Imran Khan after his bloc's shock election triumph.
When asked about Pakistani police's use of a colonial-era law against public gatherings, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington on Monday: "We want to see the freedom of assembly respected anywhere in the world,"
Independent candidates -- most linked to Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) -- took the most seats in the elections, scuppering the chances of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to win a ruling majority.
However, independents cannot form a government, raising fears of prolonged political uncertainty as PTI leaders claim rigging and call for protests outside election offices.
Miller reiterated previous US calls for an investigation into fraud claims but noted that the results showed a competitive vote. "We do think that the claims of fraud need to be fully investigated. That said, it was clearly a competitive election in which people were able to exercise their choice," he said.
"Ultimately, we respect the democratic process and we're ready to work with the government once it's formed," he said.
“I don’t know what body are they proposing to conduct an independent investigation would be,” he said and added “Right now, it’s a matter of first course, legal system play itself out in Pakistan, that’s the appropriate first step to take, and we think that’s the step that should be taken.”
Miller mentioned that the United States was willing to explore other options, with some US lawmakers urging the Biden administration not to recognize the results of the Feb 8 elections until the proposed probe is completed.
“If there are additional steps that ought to be entertained, we are happy to look into that,” Miller said
US Representative Ilhan Omar, who has come to prominence in Pakistan in part due to outspoken criticism of rival India, last week called on the State Department to refrain from recognizing the election results until an investigation takes place into allegations of election misconduct.
The United States relied on Pakistani logistical support for its two-decade war in Afghanistan but many US officials believe tacit support by Islamabad for the Taliban contributed to the fall of the Western-backed government in 2021.
The Biden administration has kept Pakistan at arm's length with Biden not speaking even by telephone with Imran Khan, a long-time critic of US military operations.
While congratulating the people of Pakistan for participating in the elections, Miller also congratulated Pakistani poll workers, civil society, journalists, and election observers for their work to protect and uphold democratic and electoral institutions.
Responding to a question about the US reaction to rigging allegations, he said: “We did express concerns publicly, we also expressed those concerns privately and joined the EU, the UK and other countries in doing so with some irregularities that we saw in the process.”
The US, he said, had also conveyed to Pakistan the need for their government to respect the will of the election. “We emphasize that we want to see the rule of law, respect for constitution, free press, vibrant civil society respected in the run of the elections, and we continue to believe that is the case,” said Miller while emphasising Washington’s commitment to democracy and freedom.
The US official also acknowledged that restrictions placed on the internet and cellphone connections during the election had a negative impact on the process. “We condemn political and election-related violence and restrictions on internet and cell phone service; those negatively impacted the electoral service,” he said. “The claims of interference and fraud that we have seen raised we want to ensure are fully investigated by Pakistan’s legal system,” he added.
The US, he said, “continues to monitor the process in days ahead.”
UN chief urges Pakistanis to resolve all post-election issues through set legal mechanisms
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Monday called on Pakistani authorities and political leaders to resolve the issues related to last week's election through established legal procedures and to avoid any action that raise tensions.
The UN chief also urged them to maintain a "calm atmosphere" in the country. "The Secretary-General is monitoring the situation in Pakistan and calls for the resolving all issues and disputes through the established legal frameworks, and
for human rights and the rule of law, to be fully respected in the interest of the people of Pakistan," his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in response to a question at the regular noon briefing in New York.
"The Secretary General urges the authorities and political leaders to maintain a calm atmosphere, and to reject and refrain from all forms of violence and avoid any actions that could increase or inflame tensions."