Washington: Pakistan watchers in the US on Thursday doubted the fairness of the general election for which Imran Khan’s party received the army’s backing while the PML-N and the PPP ran their campaigns “under constraints”.
The Trump administration said it was closely monitoring the situation in Pakistan but refused to declare the polls “free and fair”. The State Department too refused to confirm that. Its mission in Pakistan did not deploy election observers primarily because of security concerns.
“We continue to monitor developments and have consistently emphasised our support for free, fair, transparent and accountable elections in Pakistan, as we do around the world,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistan ambassador to the US, said that the result of the election was “foretold”.
“PML-N and PPP were running under constraints and PTI was operating with complete freedom and establishment backing.”
Haqqani, who is with the Hudson Institute think-tank, said the result was unlikely to change anything in Pakistan unless the military-led establishment decides to shut down its “jihad business” and recognises it as the source of the country’s isolation and economic difficulties.
“It is unlikely that a prime minister Imran Khan will act decisively against jihadis, given his sympathy for their cause but miracles can happen,” Haqqani said.
The comments came as political parties in Pakistan, including the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, too raised allegations that the election was manipulated and rigged in PTI chief Khan’s favour.
At a midnight press conference when the vote count was underway, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif said the election was a “blatant violation” of the mandate of the people. Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari too raised doubts over the slow pace of vote count and other procedural irregularities.
In an early-morning press conference, the Election Commission rejected the charges, saying it did “our job right.”
“In the meantime, the prospect of an Imran Khan-led government will in my view introduce further rockiness into US-Pakistan ties. He is on the record saying things like ‘America is destroying Pakistan’ and will likely seek to reduce Pakistan-US cooperation, already troubled to begin with. So count me concerned,” Ayres said.
Imran Khan, Pakistan experts widely believe, has the backing of the Pakistani army.
Khan’s position on the US is far more hawkish than former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, noted Moeed Yusuf, from US Institute of Peace. “On India, even though Khan is likely to take a more balanced approach, he will certainly not be as forward-leaning as Sharif,” he said.
Appearing at the Atlantic Council, a US think-tank, Ikram ul Majeed Sehgal chairman of the Pathfinder Group said the Pakistani army always had a major say in elections.
The Election Commission of Pakistan tonight rejected the allegations of any wrongdoing in the general election held yesterday after several political parties raised objections over the process and said they feared to rig.
The ECP said the election results were being collected and the first official result will be announced in an hour.
ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob said Result Transmission Service failed after results of 25,000 out of 85,000 polling stations were uploaded.
He rejected any wrongdoing in the election and said: “the issue of fraud can be discussed after ECP announces the results.”
The Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has claimed victory despite serious questions being raised over the authenticity of the election process.
Sensing victory, PTI supporters erupted in jubilation as trends showed the party was leading on 118 seats.
According to latest trends available, PTI was followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of jailed leader Nawaz Sharif. PML-N was leading on 61 National Assembly seats.
Hundreds of PTI supporters came out on streets in several cities, dancing and celebrating.
A single party will need at least 137 of the 272 directly-elected seats to be able to form the government on its own.