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US again shows concern over election rigging, suggests inquiry

The United States has expressed significant apprehensions regarding the intricacies witnessed in Pakistan’s electoral process.

In a statement, Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the State Department, highlighted the necessity of thoroughly investigating allegations of election interference and fraud following Pakistan’s legal framework.

Miller reaffirmed the United States’ dedication to upholding the rule of law, respecting constitutional principles, fostering a free media environment, and supporting a robust civil society in Pakistan. He strongly denounced incidents of political violence and the imposition of internet and phone blackouts during the election period.

Regarding the ongoing discussions among political factions for the establishment of Pakistan’s new government, Miller asserted that it is premature to make any definitive conclusions at this stage.

He emphasized the willingness of the United States to collaborate with the elected leadership chosen by the Pakistani people.

Despite expressing concerns about the complexities of the electoral process, Miller extended congratulations to the Pakistani populace for their active participation in the electoral procedures.

He acknowledged that other countries, including Britain and the European Union, have also raised similar concerns about Pakistan’s electoral process.

Meanwhile, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has called on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to address the non-compliance of returning officers (ROs) with election laws. This non-compliance has overshadowed an otherwise mostly controversy-free voting and counting process at the polling stations.

Fafen, a non-governmental election watchdog, has urged the ECP to reinforce legal provisions ensuring transparency in all stages of the election results process, including the preparation of provisional and consolidated results in constituencies.

According to Fafen, Section 92 of the Elections Act, 2017 mandates returning officers to prepare and announce the Provisional Consolidated Statement of the Results of the Count (Form-47) in the presence of contesting candidates, their election agents, and authorized observers. Similarly, Section 95(1) requires ROs to conduct the consolidation of results in the presence of contesting candidates and their agents.

However, in 135 out of 260 National Assembly constituencies, ROs did not adhere to these provisions, particularly in not allowing Fafen observers to observe the tabulation process. The constituencies include 80 in Punjab, 23 in Sindh, 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 11 in Balochistan, and all three in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

Among these 135 constituencies, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed independents won 46, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) 43, Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P) 28, unaffiliated independents 5, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan (JUI-P) 3, 2 each by Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML), and one each by various other parties.

Fafen observers also reported that in 65 constituencies, ROs prohibited one or more candidates and/or their election agents from participating in the tabulation proceedings.

Additionally, in 80 out of 125 National Assembly constituencies where Fafen observers were allowed to observe tabulation proceedings, there were instances of ROs opening tamper-evident bags containing Form-45 (Results of the Count) and Form-46 (Ballot Paper Account) without the presence of contesting candidates and agents.

Fafen observers noted that ROs in 53 constituencies pointed out arithmetic errors in Form-45, asking presiding officers to correct them before resending electronically to the Commission.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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