US ‘encouraged’ by govt’s promise to hold polls soon

WASHINGTON, JUL 23: A top-ranking United States official said Friday that Washington was “encouraged” after the crises-hit Pakistani government announced holding elections soon.

The coalition government’s tenure comes to an end on August 12, but officials have said that they might cut their term short and dissolve the assemblies before the stipulated time — around August 8.

“We are hoping for a free, fair, and peaceful election,” US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Elizabeth Horst told Pakistani journalists in Washington.

“It’s for the Pakistani people to decide who they want to elect. We do not support one party against the other. We support the rule of law and democracy in Pakistan.”

State Department’s spokesperson Matthew Miller — on the question of polls last week — maintained that the US “supports the peaceful upholding of fundamental democratic principles such as free media, free speech, freedom assembly” in Pakistan.

Election Commission of Pakistan’s Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal has said that if the NA is dissolved after completing its tenure, then the ECP will hold the polls before October 11.

Horst, who heads the Pakistan bureau at the US State Department, also said last week that the United States would work with any government elected by Pakistanis as the tenure of the incumbent rulers nears end.

“We do not have any position on any political candidate or party,” Horst said during a conference on the future of Pakistan-US Relations in Houston.

The parliament’s tenure constitutionally expires on August 12. Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, however, said no date had been set for the general election.

“No decision has so far been taken on the dissolution of the parliament,” she said in a tweet, adding a formal announcement would be made about the election date after consultation among all coalition partners.

The elections are approaching after months of political and economic turmoil, with uncertainty even to the extent that the vote might be delayed for at least one year.

A caretaker government has 90 days to hold a general election when a government hands over power early, but it would have had 60 days if the government had handed over power at the designated time.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s coalition took over after his predecessor, Imran Khan, was ousted in a vote of no confidence in parliament in April 2022.

Ever since then, Khan has been campaigning for a snap election, organising protests across the country, and raising tensions with the government.

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