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Pakistani military 'rigging' elections to 'prop up' its candidate despite Imran Khan-backed candidates winning polls: Congressman Khanna

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Washington, Feb 10 (PTI) Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna has led US lawmakers in alleging that the Pakistani military has been "rigging" the just-held general elections to "prop up" its candidate and deny the victory secured by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan.

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Pakistan's general elections were held on Thursday and the counting began soon after with the hope that the majority of the 265 contested seats in the National Assembly would be available by Friday morning.

According to the latest data from the Election Commission of Pakistan, the counting of 250 seats has been completed. Independent candidates, a vast majority of them backed by Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, were at the top with 99 seats.

Khanna, a Democrat lawmaker, alleged that the Pakistani military is supporting the current prime minister even though the people have voted for Imran Khan. He also urged the Biden administration not to recognise an illegitimate government in Pakistan.

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"There is huge news today out of Pakistan, the most consequential since the country's founding in 1947. Here's what's going on. The military had supported the current prime minister, but most of the people in Pakistan voted for Imran Khan," Khanna said in a video posted on social media platforms, apparently referring to the Pakistani military's reported backing of former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

He said that until Friday Khan was overwhelmingly winning in the popular election and looked like he had a landslide mandate to return as the prime minister of Pakistan. Khan, 71, was ousted from power in April 2022 after he lost a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly.

“Until yesterday Imran Khan was overwhelmingly winning in the popular election and looks like he had a landslide to return as prime minister. And the military basically has been raging, at least that's the allegation, rigging the election results to be interfering to prop up their military candidate,” he alleged.

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“We need to make sure that our country, the United States, does not recognise an illegitimate government in Pakistan. We need to make sure all the votes are counted properly before we recognise the government. We need to be on the side of real democracy,” Khanna demanded.

In a separate post on X, Khanna said this is a critical moment for Pakistan.

“I am deeply concerned by the growing evidence that the military is interfering and rigging the result to overturn the will of the Pakistani people. The US should not recognise a winner until all the facts are investigated,” he urged the Biden Administration.

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Senator Ben Cardin, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned in the strongest terms the deadly bombings at election campaign offices in Balochistan and sent his condolences to the victims and their families.

“These attacks must be investigated and the perpetrators need to be held accountable,” he said.

“As Pakistan’s leaders proceed to form a new government, I will continue engaging on the issues that most directly impact the Pakistani people, from promoting democracy and human rights in the country to addressing challenges related to climate change and sustainable energy. I look forward to continuing to find opportunities where the United States and Pakistan can advance our shared goals of security, stability, and prosperity across South Asia,” Cardin said.

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Congresswoman Lisa McClain said the sanctity of free and fair elections is pivotal to upholding democracy around the globe.

She supported the calls from the State Department to investigate claims of election fraud or interference in Pakistan. Your vote is your freedom.

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick said he is continuing to monitor the election in Pakistan and in particular any findings made by independent election observers regarding reports of interference or harassment occurring at the polls.

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“The US must remain committed to ensuring that all our partners uphold the democratic principles we share, including the right of the people to vote in free and fair elections,” he said.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said she is deeply concerned by the mounting evidence of military interference.

“I join the State Department in calling for a full investigation into any plot to overturn the will of the people,” she said.

Farwa Aamer, director of South Asia Initiatives, Asia Society Policy Institute, said that Pakistan’s democratic spirit shines bright with a remarkable turnout, signalling a determined populace shaping its political destiny.” “Imran Khan’s PTI shows resilience amidst hurdles, leveraging social media and the massive popularity of Khan, despite him being behind bars, to maintain a prominent lead in Pakistan’s elections,” she said.

“As Pakistan’s elections unfold, the question looms: Will the military’s stance towards Imran Khan shift amidst PTI’s potential emergence?” she asked. Observing that vigilance is key as Pakistan’s electorate demands transparency amidst allegations of vote tampering and delays in results, Aamer said at this critical juncture, all stakeholders must uphold electoral integrity to ensure stability and respect for the people’s will in Pakistan.

“Amidst the aftermath of Pakistan’s elections, a chorus of Congress representatives echoes the call for a full investigation into alleged interference or fraud, underscoring the demand for transparency and integrity in the electoral process. The US is not alone, the UK and EU have also added their voice to the chorus and Pakistan must pay heed," Aamer said. PTI LKJ RUP AKJ RUP RUP

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