US senator calls on Pakistan to probe allegations of fraud, interference in Feb 8 polls

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US Senator Chris Van Hollen. — X/@ChrisVanHollen
US Senator Chris Van Hollen. — X/@ChrisVanHollen

  • Senator Chris Van Hollen calls for respecting "people's mandate".
  • Underscores claims of restrictions on political expression in polls.
  • New govt to struggle without credible probe, warns lawmaker.

With the February 8 polls marred by allegations of rigging and result manipulation, United States Senator Chris Van Hollen has called on the Pakistani authorities to "fully investigate allegations of fraud and electoral interference".

In a letter addressed to Pakistan's ambassador to the US Masood Khan, the lawmaker underscored that the polls were tainted by claims of unfair restrictions on political expression and rigging.

His letter comes as various political parties including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have been decrying mass rigging and result manipulation in the general elections.

PTI's Sher Afzal Marwat moved the Supreme Court under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution to halt the process of formation of federal and provincial governments, further praying the court to set aside Form 47 of all national and provincial constituencies, prepared in violation of Section 13 (3) of the Election Act 2017, reported The News.

Doubts over the polls were further exacerbated by the revelations made by now-former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaqat Ali Chatha, who last week, tendered his resignation out of "guilty conscience" for abetting large-scale electoral rigging in the garrison city further raising the political mercury in the country.

The former bureaucrat has since then retracted his allegations while stressing that his actions were carried out with the PTI, who had also given him "lucrative positions in future".

Meanwhile, former prime minister Imran Khan has also written to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) asking the global lender to hold an audit of the election results before approving any new loan for Islamabad.

Senator Hollen's letter further underscores that any new government will struggle to bring the nation together without a credible investigation as the country requires a strong government with the people's backing to make difficult but necessary decisions in light of the prevailing economic and security challenges.

"Respecting the decision of the Pakistani people, expressed through their votes, is the only way a new government will be empowered to tackle issues facing Pakistan such as negotiating a new IMF agreement," the letter reads.

Earlier this week, Washington had called on Islamabad to ensure a full and transparent investigation of "any claims of interference or fraud" in the February 8 general elections as per Pakistani laws and procedures.

In a statement, US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller called for a probe when he was asked about the explosive rigging allegations made by Chatha.

"Any claims of interference or fraud should be fully and transparently investigated in accordance with Pakistan’s own laws and procedures. And that, of course, includes this claim as well," Miller responded.

When the spokesperson was asked about the US stance on respecting the PTI's mandate, Miller said that the formation of a new government was an “internal" Pakistani matter.

"But — so that’s a matter that I will leave to Pakistan. But as I said, when it comes to the — any claims of interference or allegations of irregularities, we want to see those fully investigated," said the spokesperson.