WASHINGTON: The United States State Department has voiced apprehension regarding reports that highlight a lack of press freedom and free expression in Pakistan, especially with the upcoming general elections just days away.
As the eligible population of the country prepares to cast their votes on February 8 to choose the next government, the significance of the press and media becomes paramount in educating and informing citizens.
During a press briefing in Washington today, Vedant Patel, the Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department, emphasized the importance of free and independent media as crucial institutions for supporting healthy democracies.
Patel stated, “We strongly believe that a free and independent media are vital institutions that underpin healthy democracies by ensuring that voters can make informed decisions and hold the government accountable.”
Patel asserted the U.S. belief in the critical role journalists play in covering fair and transparent elections. Expressing ongoing concerns, he mentioned, “We also continue to be concerned by any reports of restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the press. Such actions are inconsistent with the self-stated goal of Pakistani authorities to conduct a fully fair and transparent election.”
Regarding the transparency of elections in Pakistan, the U.S. official reiterated the stance that the future leadership of Pakistan is for the Pakistani people to decide, emphasizing the U.S.’s interest in supporting the democratic process.
When questioned about Pakistani Foreign Secretary Syrus Qazi’s statement on India’s alleged involvement in transnational killings after similar claims by Canada and the U.S., the official expressed unawareness of the specific report and urged both the Pakistani and Indian governments to engage in more discussion on the matter.
A day earlier, Foreign Secretary Syrus Qazi, in a press conference, presented “credible evidence” linking Indian agents to the killings of two Pakistani citizens on Pakistani soil. He revealed an alleged sophisticated and sinister Indian campaign of extra-territorial and extra-judicial killings.
This statement followed earlier accusations by Canada and the U.S., prompting New Delhi to reject Ottawa’s allegations and initiate an investigation into Washington’s claims.
Qazi described the incidents as “killings-for-hire cases involving a sophisticated international set-up spread over multiple jurisdictions.”