As Pakistan voted in its general elections amid claims of cheating and electoral malpractice, the Biden administration on Thursday stated that it is up to the people to choose their future leaders, news agency PTI reported. Speaking at his daily news conference, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel stated: “Millions of Pakistanis went to the polls today to vote, and I will reiterate that Pakistan’s future leadership is for the Pakistani people to decide, and our interest continues to be in the democratic process.”
He slammed all occurances of poll-related violence, both in the weeks preceding as well as on the voting day on Thursday.
While expressing concerns regarding the restrictions on the exercise of freedom during polls, he stated: “These kinds of election-related violence, we believe, affected a broad range of political parties across Pakistan. It impacted polling stations, election officers, as well as the election commission.”
“We are tracking reports of restrictions on internet and cellphone access across Pakistan on polling day. And we, along with the international community, will continue to emphasize the importance of democratic institutions, a free press, a vibrant civil society, and expanded opportunities for political participation of all of Pakistan’s citizens. But I am not going to get ahead of any of the other official election results, so I’m not going to comment on this any further,” Patel was quoted by PTI in its report.
The State Department official declined to comment on early results. “The thing about preliminary results is that they are preliminary. And I am not going to get ahead of any official results, and so I’m not going to comment or speculate further on what a government could look like, what the makeup could be, or anything like that,” he said.
“What I will just reiterate again is that we condemn all instances of election- related violence, even some of the kinds that you are describing that took place in the weeks preceding the election as well as on election day,” he said.
“We also believe that these kinds of actions have affected a number of political parties across Pakistan, and we’re also concerned about the steps that were taken to restrict freedom of expression, specifically around internet and cellphone use. But again, I’m just not going to speculate on results or government makeup,” Patel said.
“We will at some point – I have no doubt that the United States of America will comment on the official election results when they happen, but till then we will defer to the electoral process, which we take very seriously,” he said in response to a question.
When questioned that if the United States would accept the results when they are contaminated by charges of rigging, violence, and torture, he said: “We are going to continue to monitor the electoral process. We are not going to get ahead of any official results, and we want to see a process that took place in a way that allowed for broad participation, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”
“There were some clear restrictions of the exercise of freedom specifically around internet and cellphone use – and those, of course, are concerning. We’ve also seen reports of election-based violence in the weeks leading up to this, as well as on election day. Those continue to be concerning, and those, we believe, have impacted a number of political parties. But again, I’m just not going to get ahead of this, and it is truly up to the people of Pakistan to decide their political future,” he said.
When a media stated that the US has been rather quiet on human rights issues in Pakistan, but the primary focus of bilateral ties is the Pakistan military, therefore election results do not matter, Patel said: “I would certainly take issue with that characterization.”
“The makeup of the Government of Pakistan is up for the Pakistani people to decide. What the United States is interested in is deepening our partnership and cooperation with the Government of Pakistan regardless of what the makeup of the government is. That is not for us to decide. There are a number of areas in which we believe we’ve got some strategic shared priorities, and we look forward to continuing to work in that space,” Patel said.