Election 2024: UN voices 'concern' over harassment, violence against candidates

Web Desk
A shopkeeper arranges flags of political parties at his shop ahead of the upcoming general elections in Karachi. — AFP/File
A shopkeeper arranges flags of political parties at his shop ahead of the upcoming general elections in Karachi. — AFP/File

  • UN spokesperson deplores attacks by armed groups against parties.
  • Official expresses concern over pattern of harassment and arrests.
  • Statement calls on judiciary to review cases against Imran Khan. 

Amid the recent spike in terrorist attacks and violent incidents in the run-up to Pakistan's February 8 election, the United Nations (UN) Tuesday expressed concern over violent incidents ahead of the upcoming general elections.

"We deplore all acts of violence against political parties and candidates, and urge the authorities to uphold the fundamental freedoms necessary for an inclusive and meaningful democratic process," spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssell said in a statement.

The official's remarks come as previous general election campaigns have witnessed spasms of violence, with scores of candidates and voters targeted by bombings and gun attacks and it seems that the 2024 polls are likely to be no different as the country has witnessed a significant surge in targeting of electioneering activities and candidates.

Scores of attacks have targetted candidates and electioneering activities of several political parties including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), National Party (NP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Last month, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) postponed the elections on the National Assembly's NA-8 and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's PK-22 constituencies after independent candidate Rehan Zeb Khan was gunned down in KP’s Bajaur district.

Apart from this, violent clashes have also taken place involving political parties and police.

Last week, at least two people were injured after PTI workers clashed with the police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Karak district.

Before that, the PPP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) workers clashed on two separate occasions in Karachi — resulting in one fatality and multiple injuries.

In her statement, the UN spokesperson underscored that "no less than 24" incidents have occurred where armed groups have targetted political parties, and called on the 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".

Lamenting the "pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders of the PTI and its supporters, the UN official highlighted that the forum expects the country's higher courts to carefully review the cases against PTI founder and former prime minister Imran Khan in light of applicable due process and fair trial rights and ensure the country's compliance with international human rights obligations.

Furthermore, it called on the political parties to meet the legal 5% 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," the spokesperson said.