US urges 'timely, free and fair' elections in Pakistan

State Department calls upon authorities to “move forward with the electoral process in a manner consistent with Pakistan’s laws”

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State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller. — AFP/File
State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller. — AFP/File

  • US urges Pakistan to respect human rights, fundamental freedom.
  • Statement comes after President Alvi's announcement of poll date.
  • Election Commission says polls to take place after delimitations.

Amid uncertainty surrounding the election schedule, the United States (US) has urged Pakistani authorities to hold "timely, free and fair" elections in line with the country’s laws.

State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller stated this while responding to a question related to President Arif Alvi’s suggestion that elections should be held no later than November 6 — the 89th day since the dissolution of the National Assembly.

“As we do with countries around the world, we urge Pakistan to hold a free and fair – free and fair and timely elections, and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law,” Miller told the journalists.

The State Department spokesperson also urged Pakistani authorities to move forward with the electoral process in a manner consistent with Pakistan’s laws, “as we do with countries around the world”.

A day earlier, President Arif Alvi wrote a letter to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, mentioning the cut-off date for elections.

The president said that in the light of Article 48(5) of the Constitution, he has the authority and mandate “to appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution [of assemblies], for holding of a general election to the assembly.”

President Alvi said that the National Assembly was dissolved by him on the advice of the then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif on August 9, 2023.

[…] in terms of Article 48(5) the general election to the National Assembly should be held by the eighty-ninth day of the date of dissolution of the National Assembly, i.e. Monday 6th Day of November 2023,” the letter stated.

However, in the same letter, Alvi suggested the CEC to seek guidance from the apex court over the poll date as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other stakeholders said that the elections cannot be held without holding fresh delimitations in accordance with new census.

On Wednesday, British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott stressed free, credible, transparent and inclusive elections in Pakistan in a meeting with CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja in Islamabad.

The British envoy shared on her account on X, formerly Twitter, about the meeting with the CEC at the Election Commission in the federal capital.

"Important introductory meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja at ECP today," Marriot wrote in her post.

The diplomat added that she and the CEC agreed that it is crucial for Pakistan to witness "free, credible, transparent and inclusive elections in line with the law".

Last month, United States' Ambassador Donald Blome also met CEC Raja to reaffirm his country's support for "free and fair elections", adding that it would work to strengthen the US-Pakistan relationship with "whomever the Pakistani people choose".

The US ambassador reiterated that choosing Pakistan's future leaders is for the Pakistani people to decide, the statement added.

The date of elections in Pakistan remains a contentious matter, particularly following the dissolution of the National Assembly on August 9 by the then-Shehbaz Sharif-led government.

The Sindh and Balochistan assemblies, meanwhile, were also prematurely dissolved to allow the electoral authority to hold elections in the country within 90 days.

Under the law, polls should be held in 60 days if the legislature completes its constitutional tenure, however, the deadline is three months if assemblies are dissolved prematurely.

Furthermore, the general elections in the country are likely to be delayed after the Council of Common Interest (CCI), days before the dissolution of the assemblies, approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023.