US, UK, EU urge probe into Pakistan election, express concerns

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WASHINGTON – The United States, Britain and the European Union on Feb 9 separately expressed concerns about Pakistan’s electoral process in the wake of a vote on Feb 8 and urged a probe into reported irregularities.

The main battle was between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party and candidates backed by ex-prime minister Imran Khan.

Both declared victory separately.

Elections were held for 265 seats in the national assembly and a political party needs 133 seats for a simple majority.

The US and the EU both mentioned allegations of interference, including arrests of activists, and added that claims of irregularities, interference and fraud should be fully investigated.

Khan is in jail and his party has been barred from the polls. Independents, most of them backed by Khan, had won the most seats – 98 of the 245 counted by 1830 GMT (2.30am on Feb 10, Singapore time) – while Mr Sharif’s PML-N party had won 69 seats.

Khan believes the powerful military is behind a crackdown to hound his party out of existence, while analysts and opponents say Mr Sharif is being backed by the generals.

The EU statement noted a “lack of a level playing field”, attributing that to “the inability of some political actors to contest the elections” and to restrictions to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and internet access.

The US State Department said there were “undue restrictions” on freedoms of expressions and assembly, while noting violence and attacks on media workers.

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