Some steps, including curbs on freedom of expression and association, taken by authorities in Pakistan ahead of its July 25 general elections were at odds with their stated goal of a free, fair and transparent polls, the Trump Administration said today.
Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan led his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party to victory in the parliamentary elections this week, amid a growing consensus among South Asia experts and Pakistan-observers that it was greatly influenced and meddled by the strong Pakistani Army.
The development of strong democratic and civilian institutions of governance and a vibrant civil society is critical to Pakistan's long-term stability and prosperity, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
"In that context, the United States shares concerns about flaws in the pre-voting electoral process, as expressed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan," she said.
"These included constraints placed on freedoms of expression and association during the campaign period that were at odds with Pakistani authorities' stated goal of a fully fair and transparent election," Nauert said in the first official US statement since the general elections in Pakistan on Wednesday.
Khan was today inching closer to form a government in Pakistan with the support of allies and independents even as a multi-party meeting rejected the poll results alleging rigging and demanded "transparent" re-election.
So far Khan's PTI has bagged 115 of the 270 National Assembly seats on which elections were held.
The US also joined the European Union in expressing concern over the pre-poll violence and restrictions posed on freedom of expression and association ahead of the general elections that were conducted in Pakistan and noted that it looks forward to working with the new elected government in Islamabad.
"The United States concurs with the conclusions of the European Union Election Observation Mission, whose report notes that while there were positive changes to the legal framework for elections in Pakistan, these were overshadowed by restrictions on freedom of expression and unequal campaign opportunities," she said.
"The US also has deep reservations over the participation of terrorist-affiliated individuals in the elections, but we commend Pakistani voters for fully rejecting these candidates at the ballot box on Wednesday," Nauert said.
She said the US, along with its international partners, will continue to encourage a broadening of opportunities for political participation for all Pakistanis and for the further strengthening of legitimate, democratic institutions.
"As Pakistan's elected leaders form a new government, the United States will look for opportunities to work with them to advance our goals of security, stability, and prosperity in South Asia," Nauert said.
Taking note of the election results in Pakistan, Nauert said the US commends the courage of the Pakistani people, including many women, who turned out to vote and showed resolve to determine their country's future.
"We condemn the horrific acts of terrorist violence that marred this process, including the latest attack outside a polling station in Quetta on election day. We offer our deepest condolences to the victims and their families, and wish a speedy recovery to those injured," she said.