ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s election regulator has decided to invite international observers to witness the upcoming polls slated to be held in the last week of January 2024, the state-run Radio Pakistan said in a report on Tuesday.
Former prime minister Imran Khan, who was ousted from office via a parliamentary vote in April 2022, has accused Pakistan’s powerful military and ex-PM Shehbaz Sharif’s previous government of attempting to “dismantle” his political party owing to his widespread popularity.
Khan, who is in jail, has said the various charges against him are politically motivated and has accused the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of being part of a ploy to keep him out of politics. The ECP has rejected Khan’s allegations while Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has said Khan’s party would be given a “level-playing field” to contest polls.
“Election Commission of Pakistan has decided to write to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to invite international observers for upcoming general elections,” the report said. It added that the decision was taken during a meeting of the regulator chaired by its head, Sikandar Sultan Raja.
The report said ECP decided to expedite the process of international observers who have already requested to observe Pakistan’s electoral process.
“The Election Commission accorded approval to the code of conduct for International Observers and also allowed to publish it on a priority basis,” Radio Pakistan said.
Last month, the ECP said it would publish the final list of constituencies by Nov. 30 and that polls would be held in the country during the last week of January.
In September, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said it was concerned about the scope for institutions to manipulate the electoral process in Pakistan.
“Apart from ensuring that free, fair and credible elections take place, the test of the current caretaker government is to see not only whether it will protect and respect people’s right to protest peacefully, but also whether it will respond to the issues that ordinary citizens are mobilizing around,” the HRCP said.
Pakistan heads to the polls amid mounting challenges in the form of an economic meltdown and political instability that has depleted the country’s reserves and weakened its currency. The cash-starved South Asian nation has hiked fuel prices in recent weeks, leading to staggering inflation and more problems for its population.