Pakistan on Saturday hit back at criticism over the conduct of its parliamentary elections, which were held amid sporadic militant attacks and an unprecedented stoppage of all mobile phone services.
The strongly worded reaction from the Foreign Ministry insisted the vote was peaceful and successful. Western capitals on Friday called into question the “undue restrictions” put in place during the Feb.8 elections in Pakistan and expressed concern over allegations of vote-rigging, but pledged to work with whoever formed the next government.
The United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU), in their separate statements, called upon the relevant Pakistani authorities to ensure a timely and full investigation of all the reported irregularities in Thursday’s elections.
The US State Department said that Thursday’s vote was held under undue restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The European Union has also said it regrets the lack of a level playing field due to the inability of some political actors to contest the elections.
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The ministry said it was surprised by “the negative tone of some of these statements, which neither take into account the complexity of the electoral process, nor acknowledge the free and enthusiastic exercise of the right to vote by tens of millions of Pakistanis.”
It said such statements “ignore the undeniable fact that Pakistan has held general elections, peacefully and successfully, while dealing with serious security threats resulting primarily from foreign sponsored terrorism.”
It said there was no nationwide internet shutdown and “only mobile services were suspended for the day to avoid terrorist incidents on polling day.”
In Thursday’s vote, no political party gained a simple majority and independent candidates backed by imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan took a lead in the vote count.
A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Lahore. AFP
It forced Imran Khan’s main rival, three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, to announce plans to try to form a coalition government. Imran Khan was disqualified from running because of criminal convictions.
Candidates backed by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party won 100 out of the 266 seats up for grabs in the National Assembly. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party captured 71 seats.
Also on Saturday, the leader of a political party was wounded and two police officers killed in a clash in the country’s northwest.
The violence broke out in North Waziristan when Mohsin Dawar and his supporters tried to march toward an army facility while protesting delays in announcing the election result, police official Zahid Khan said.