Interested in ‘taking appropriate steps to continue to foster relationship’ with Pakistan: US

Islamabad: The United States said this week it is interested in taking appropriate steps to continue to foster its relationship with Pakistan as the South Asian nation held a vote to decide its future.

While the picture is still murky as the results are yet to come in, the polling day was marred with allegations of rigging by political parties, and to top it off, the caretaker government decided to shut down cellular and internet services for the better part of the day.

“Our interest is in the democratic process, and we are interested in taking the appropriate steps to continue to foster our relationship, our partnership with the Government of Pakistan, whatever it should be,” Vedant Patel, US Department of State’s principal deputy spokesperson, told a press conference in Washington.

Patel reiterated that Pakistan’s future leadership is for the Pakistani people to decide, and the American nation’s interest continues to be in the democratic process.

The State Department has faced tough questions from journalists related to Pakistan since April 2022 when Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) was ousted, with the then-prime minister Imran Khan alleging that the US was behind his removal — a claim that the American officials vehemently denied.

In the lead-up to Pakistan’s general elections, which were by far the biggest that the country has ever staged, several incidents of violence were witnessed in which candidates were killed, party workers injured, and property damaged.

In response, Patel said: “We strongly condemn all instances of election-related violence, both in the weeks preceding elections as well as those that transpired on election day.”

These kinds of election-related violence, he said, affected a broad range of political parties across Pakistan. It impacted polling stations, election officers, as well as the election commission, Patel added.

The official said that the US is concerned about the restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression. “We are tracking reports of restrictions on internet and cellphone access across Pakistan on polling day.”

Patel said that the US, along with the international community, will continue to emphasise the importance of democratic institutions, a free press, a vibrant civil society, and expanded opportunities for political participation of all of Pakistan’s citizens.