US official seeks probe into Pakistan election rigging allegations

New York: Amid calls to not acknowledge Pakistan’s new government following controversial elections, US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu underlined Washington’s concerns about irregularities in the February 8 polls.

In a written statement ahead of his House testimony, Lu stressed the importance of remaining involved with Pakistan in order to help it handle the current crisis. He suggested a thorough probe into allegations of rigging. Lu will testify before a subcommittee of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the subject of “Pakistan After the Elections: Examining the Future of Democracy in Pakistan and the US-Pakistan Relationship.”

He is at the forefront of a crisis in Pakistan stemming from his purported warning to Asad Majeed, the former Pakistan envoy to the US, which was sent to Islamabad via a cipher. PTI founder and ex-Pakistan PM Imran Khan addressed the cipher in public addresses, accusing the US of plotting to remove him from power in 2022.

Lu, in his statement, also highlighted how the State Department slammed Pakistan for electoral violence, the undue limitations on freedoms of expression, ban on internet and assaults on media personnel during its general elections.

“Even though a high court had ordered that internet services remain uninterrupted on election day, mobile data services were shut down, cutting off the main channel for Pakistanis to access social media and messaging apps,” he said in the written testimony that was uploaded to the House subcommittee’s website.

Stating the US government is particularly concerned about pre-election instances of electoral misconduct and violence, he highlighted attacks on police, political leaders and harassment of journalists, particularly women. He also mentioned the difficulties that some candidates and parties encountered during their registration.

He further noted that a well-known local monitoring body was denied access to check the vote count in several constituencies. Last month, US legislators appealed to President Joe Biden not to recognize Pakistan’s new government until charges of election fraud have been adequately probed.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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