The European Union expressed concerns about Pakistan's electoral process and urged a probe into reported irregularities.(Photo by Rebecca Conway/Getty Images)


EU slams Pakistan ‘election violence’ and wants probe into ‘irregularities’


The European Union has condemned what it called “acts of violence, which took place in the lead up to the elections” in Pakistan.

“The authorities were faced with the challenging task of countering serious terrorist threats and attacks. The EU condemns all acts of violence, which took place in the lead up to the elections and calls on all parties and actors to use peaceful and democratic mechanisms to settle differences, refraining from further violence,” the European Council stated on February 9, a day after the vote.

The UK and the US also expressed concerns about Pakistan’s electoral process in the wake of the vote 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.

The elections were held on February 8 for 265 seats in the national assembly and a political party needs 133 seats for a simple majority.

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

“We regret the lack of a level playing field due to the inability of some political actors to contest the elections, restrictions to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression both online and offline, restrictions of access to the internet, as well as allegations of severe interference in the electoral process, including arrests of political activists,” the Council stated.

“We therefore call upon the relevant authorities to ensure a timely and full investigation of all reported election irregularities and to implement the recommendations of the upcoming EU Election Expert Mission report.”

Khan is in jail and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) 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 18.30 GMT – while Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had won 69 seats.

Khan said he believed the powerful military was behind a crackdown to hound his party out of existence, while analysts and opponents say Sharif is backed by the generals.

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

Some US lawmakers, including Democratic representatives Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar, also expressed concerns. “The military is interfering and rigging the result,” said Khanna.

Both Khanna and Omar urged the State Department not to recognise a winner until investigations are conducted into allegations of misconduct.

Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Centre think-tank in Washington, said both EU and US State Department statements were “relatively mild … considering the great scale of the rigging that went down”.

A few days previously, the UN human rights office denounced violence against political parties and candidates. It voiced concern over the “pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders and supporters” of Khan’s party.

The EU, the US and Britain said they would work with the next government and did not congratulate any candidate or party.

British foreign minister David Cameron’s statement noted “serious concerns raised about the fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections.”

Multiple legal cases have been brought against Khan, which disqualified him as a candidate and sentenced him to long prison terms. He denies any wrongdoing.

Khan was ousted in 2022 after falling out with the country’s powerful military, which denies meddling in politics.

His party won the last national election in 2018.