Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch on Wednesday responded to the U.N.’s concerns regarding the Feb. 8 general elections, stressing Pakistan is committed to fostering an inclusive democratic process in line with its laws and Constitution.
A day earlier, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Liz Throssell issued a statement deploring “all acts of violence” against political parties and candidates and urged authorities to “uphold the fundamental freedoms necessary for an inclusive and meaningful democratic process.”
Noting “no less than 24” incidents of armed groups targeting political were reported during the election campaign, it called on 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.”
Referring to leaders and supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), it said there was a “pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions” that it expected the country’s higher courts to review to ensure all trials were in compliance with international human rights obligations. It also called on political parties to meet the legal 5 percent quota for women candidates. “Despite 22% of seats in the National Assembly being reserved for women, some political parties appear to have not met the legal quota of having 5% women candidates on their party lists,” it added.
Responding to the statement, Baloch said Pakistan was committed to “upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed in its laws and Constitution.” She said authorities had finalized security plans for the Feb. 8 elections as per the country’s electoral laws. “Our judicial system provides for fair trial and due process. Domestic legal remedies are available in case of any complaints in the electoral process,” she added.
Several candidates for the upcoming elections, particularly in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, have been targeted in bombings and gun attacks during 2024 election campaign, with virtually all parties coming under fire. Last week, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) postponed elections for the NA-8 and PK-22 constituencies after independent candidate Rehan Zeb Khan was gunned down in Bajaur.