Ahead of Thursday’s (Feb 8) parliamentary election, the United Nations human rights agency has voiced concern regarding Pakistan’s crackdown on the opposition party of former prime minister Imran Khan.
Elizabeth Throssell, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday (Feb 6) urged the Pakistani authorities to allow all “eligible parties to compete fairly”.
“We are disturbed, therefore, by the pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and their supporters, which has continued during the election period,” said Throssell.
“We expect the higher courts will carefully review these conclusions in line with applicable due process and fair trial rights and Pakistan’s wider international human rights obligations,” she added, referring to the charges rejected by Khan and his party levelled against him.
While the UN appears sombre at the state of affairs in the South Asian country, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Tuesday told a delegation of foreign election observers that his government had made possible arrangements to ensure the seamless conduct of elections.
However, hours later, Federal Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz said the government may temporarily disrupt internet service in parts of the country during Thursday’s election.
“As of now, no decision has been made. If a request is received from a province or a district, we will assess the threat level in that area,” Ejaz told reporters in Islamabad.
“Terrorists use WhatsApp for internal communication. If there is terrorist activity, should we not stop communication?” he added.
Khan’s political downfall
Khan was handed three back-to-back lengthy prison sentences last week for treason, graft and a marriage that did not meet Islamic law requirements.
With the PTI chief in jail and his party barred from contesting as a bloc, the election results are all but a foregone conclusion already. The path is clear for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to win the most seats and give a fourth term as premier to its founder, Nawaz Sharif.
The canvassing trail in the country came to a halt on Tuesday midnight but even then, it remained highly lacklustre, despite Thursday’s polls being the first general election since 2018. The voting will be held in a single phase with the results expected to be published by the Election Commission of Pakistan within 14 days.
(With inputs from agencies)