Doubts raised in US over fairness of Pakistan elections


New Delhi, Pakistan watchers in the United States today doubted the fairness of the general election for which Imran Khan’s party received the army’s backing while the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Partyran their campaigns “under constraints”.

The Trump administration said it was closely monitoring the situation in Pakistan but refused to declare the polls “free and fair”.

The State Department too refused to confirm that. Its mission in Pakistan did not deploy election observers primarily because of security concerns.

“We continue to monitor developments and have consistently emphasised our support for free, fair, transparent and accountable elections in Pakistan, as we do around the world,” a State Department spokesperson.

Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistan ambassador to the US,  said that the result of the election was “foretold”.

“PML-N and PPP were running under constraints and PTI was operating with complete freedom and establishment backing.”

Haqqani, who is with the Hudson Institute think-tank,  said the result was unlikely to change anything in Pakistan, unless the military-led establishment decides to shutdown its “jihad business” and recognises it as the source of the country’s isolation and economic difficulties.

“It is unlikely that a prime minister Imran Khan will act decisively against jihadis, given his sympathy for their cause but miracles can happen,” Haqqani said.

The comments came as political parties in Pakistan, including the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, too raised allegations that the election was manipulated and rigged in PTI chief Khan’s favour.

At a midnight press conference when the vote count was underway, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif said the election was a “blatant violation” of the mandate of the people. Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari too raised doubts over the slow pace of vote count and other procedural irregularities.

“There are serious allegations of tampering and interference for virtually all parties except the PTI. So the Election Commission of Pakistan will have to respond — but it is unclear how,” former state department official Alyssa Ayres, who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations, said.

In an early-morning press conference, the Election Commission rejected the charges, saying it did “our job right.”