ANI Photo | “We are concerned about restrictions…”: US denounces violence, curbs during Pak polls

The US on Friday condemned the election-related violence and internet shutterdowns on the voting day in Pakistan, saying that they were concerned about the curbs on the exercise of freedom of expression in the country.
“Pakistanis went to the polls today to vote. Pakistan’s future leadership is for the Pakistani people to decide and our interests continued to be in the democratic process. We strongly condemn all instances of election-related violence. Election-related violence, we believe, affected a broad range of political parties across Pakistan,” the principal deputy spokesperson of the US State Department, Vedant Patel, said during a media briefing on Thursday.
“It impacted polling stations, election officers as well as the Election commission. We are concerned about the restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression. We are tracking reports of restrictions on Internet and cell phone access across Pakistan on polling day,” he added.
Polling for general elections in Pakistan concluded amid allegations of rigging and the shutdown of cellular and internet services, Dawn reported on Thursday.
The voting process began at 8 am and continued till 5 pm. The Election Commission of Pakistan earlier said that exceptions would only be made for people already inside the polling station.
However, the polling is not being considered free and fair, as many allegations were levelled regarding the rigging and people being barred from voting.
In a major development, the Federal Interior Ministry this morning suspended mobile phone and internet services across Pakistan to maintain the law and order situation during the general elections on Thursday.
Internet monitor Netblocks also said the real-time data shows that internet blackouts were in effect in “multiple regions of Pakistan in addition to mobile network disruptions,” as reported by Dawn.
The development drew severe criticism from major political parties.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari demanded the immediate restoration of mobile phone services across the country.
Women voters in a village of NA-20 in Swabi district were completely banned to cast vote, ARY News reported on Thursday.
The locals allegedly prohibited women from exercising their right to vote in Adeena village of Swabi district. According to reports, the election staff were present at the polling station while few women voters were sighted.
In another incident, at least two children were killed in a blast near a polling station in Washbood Panjgur, according to ARY News.

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