An independent human rights commission in Pakistan on January 1 warned that next month’s parliamentary elections are unlikely to be free and fair due to “pre-poll rigging,” the Associated Press reported.
At a press conference last Monday in Islamabad, Munizae Jahangir, the co-chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, also voiced concern about officials rejecting the candidacy of former Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as candidates from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
Jahangir said other political parties have also faced similar tactics to some extent and as a result, “there is little evidence to show that the upcoming elections will be free, fair, or credible.”
She said the PTI party was being systematically “dismembered” and the nearly blanket rejection of PTI candidates raises serious questions about Pakistan’s Election Commission.
Jahangir said Pakistan’s “clampdown” on dissent has constricted civil discourse even further at a time when Pakistanis are about to go to the polls to freely express their political views.
Longtime Pakistani human rights leader Farhutullah Babar told reporters that the decision by the Election Commission to reject Imran Khan and other members of PTI from the ballot was “apparent pre-poll rigging.” He argued that the government had a duty to ensure that the elections were free and fair and that it was the responsibility of the Election Commission to ensure that all political parties had the same opportunity.
Babar warned that some of Pakistan’s political parties would refuse to accept the outcome of a rigged election and suggested that such election disputes could cause further political instability in the country.
Imran Khan is currently serving a 3-year prison sentence for corruption and is facing additional charges, all of which make it difficult for him to run for office. However, despite knowing that his candidacy papers could be rejected, Khan’s legal team sought to place him on the ballot for a seat in Pakistan’s National Assembly.
Election officials argued that Khan’s conviction prevented him from running for office.