Ready to work with any Pakistani govt, US says

Washington, Feb 13 (PTI): The US is ready to work with any government that comes to power in Pakistan, a State Department official said on Monday, amid rumours of horse-trading in the absence of a clear majority after general elections in the country and also the delay in declaring results on all National Assembly seats.

Contrary to its earlier claim, the Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday blamed the suspension of Internet and mobile services on February 8 — when countrywide polling took place — and said it did “create hindrance” in declaring results promptly.

It also claimed that the delay did not harm “any specific political party”.

In the US, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters at his daily news conference, “I don’t think there is a new Pakistani government yet. I believe there are still discussions going on about the formation of a government.” “But one of the things that we have said leading up to the elections, and we’ll continue to make clear, is that whoever the Pakistani people choose to represent them, we will work with that government,” he added.

As the National Assembly results showed, Independent candidates backed by former prime minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) won 101 seats. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by another former prime minister — Nawaz Sharif — got 75 seats.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari grabbed 54 seats while the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) secured 17.

To form a government, a party must win 133 of the 265 contested seats in the National Assembly.

“And as to the claims of fraud, we want to see those fully investigated,” the US State Department spokesperson said, responding to questions on the allegations of vote tampering in the elections.

Miller said, “Let me just reiterate that we do think that the claims of fraud need to be fully investigated. That said, it was clearly a competitive elections in which people were able to exercise their choice. Now, that said, there were irregularities; we want to see them investigated. But ultimately, we respect the democratic process and we’re ready to work with the government once it’s formed.” He also congratulated the Pakistani people — including poll workers and observers, civil society members and journalists who protected the country’s democratic and electoral institutions — for participating in the elections.

“We did express concerns publicly — we also expressed those concerns privately and joined the EU, the UK and other countries in doing so — with some irregularities that we saw in the process. We’ve conveyed the need for the Pakistani government to respect the will of the elections,” Miller said.

“We emphasise repeatedly … that we want to see the rule of law, respect for the Constitution, free press and vibrant civil society respected in the run-up to the elections. We continue to believe that’s the case. We condemn political and election-related violence and restrictions on Internet and cell phone service. Those negatively impacted the electoral service,” he further said.

“The claims of interference and fraud that we have seen raised, we want to ensure (those) are fully investigated by Pakistan’s legal system and we will be continuing to monitor that in the days ahead,” he added.

According to Marvin Weinbaum, the director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute think-tank, Pakistan will see the emergence of a weak and unstable governing coalition — incapable of assuming the risks necessary to carry out the far-reaching policy changes needed to deal with the country’s rapidly-mounting economic, social and environmental problems.

“Moreover, whichever faction — the PTI or the PML-N — ends up sitting in opposition, most of its time will probably be devoted to harping on the government’s supposed illegitimacy and in demanding new elections. If so, the 2024 national elections could be another blight on Pakistan’s already-sullied democracy,” he said. PTI LKJ SZM

(This story is published as part of the auto-generated syndicate wire feed. No editing has been done in the headline or the body by ABP Live.)