Beleaguered former Pakistan prime minister and founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party Imran Khan on Tuesday received unexpected international support ahead of Thursday’s general elections when the UN human rights body deplored “all acts of violence against political parties and candidates.” With barely two days for polling, the office of High Commissioner, United Nations Human Rights (UNHR) also urged the authorities to uphold the fundamental freedoms necessary for “an inclusive and meaningful democratic process” as it spoke about the barriers faced by women and minority communities in Pakistan, particularly the Ahmadis.
In a statement, the UNHR pointed out that in the lead-up to the vote, there have been no less than 24 reported instances in which armed groups have staged attacks against members of political parties.
“Pakistan’s democratic gains over the past 15 years have been hard-won in the face of many security and economic challenges. Elections are an important moment to reaffirm the country’s commitment to human rights and democracy, and to ensure the right to participation of all its people, including women and minorities,” UNHR spokesperson Liz Throssell said in the statement.
Claiming that the UNHCHR is disturbed, therefore, by the “pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party and their supporters,” which has continued during the election period, the UNHCHR statement said, “Multiple legal cases have been brought against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, which has disqualified him as a candidate and sentenced him to long prison terms.” “We expect the higher courts will carefully review these conclusions in line with applicable due process and fair trial rights, and Pakistan’s wider international human rights obligations. All eligible parties must be able to compete fairly,” Throssell said.
Additionally, the election is a reminder of the barriers faced by women and minority communities in Pakistan, particularly the Ahmadis, the statement said, adding, that despite 22 per cent of seats in the National Assembly being reserved for women, some political parties appear to have not met the legal quota of having five per cent women candidates on their party lists.
“Separate voter lists – as is the case for the Ahmadis – expose them to harassment and violence, despite the equal rights guaranteed to minorities in Pakistan’s constitution,” it criticised.
“Mindful of Pakistan’s political journey,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, appealed to the authorities to ensure a fully “free and fair vote” and to recommit to the democratic process and an environment that promotes and protects the full range of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights – which are clearly interconnected, the statement added.
Khan and his party have alleged there is no level playing field in the ongoing election process. The PTI leader has also blamed the powerful military establishment for preventing him from riding back to power.
The election body has stripped his party of the iconic cricket bat as the election symbol, rejected his nomination papers and those of other party leaders, at least one of his party leaders is killed during polling-related violence and the latest, a key candidate from Lahore indicted in a terrorism case.
(This story is published as part of the auto-generated syndicate wire feed. Apart from the headline, no editing has been done in the copy by ABP Live.)