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Pakistan dismisses UN human rights body's concerns about violence, democratic freedom ahead of polls

Pakistan dismisses UN human rights body's concerns about violence, democratic freedom ahead of polls

- Pakistan upholds rule of law, protects human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by its laws, constitution, says Foreign Ministry spokesperson

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD (AA) – Pakistan on Wednesday dismissed UN human rights body concerns about violence and the right to fundamental democratic freedom ahead of general elections in the country, saying Islamabad is fully committed to protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by its laws and constitution.

Pakistan upholds the rule of law and protects the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by its laws and constitution, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in a statement, in apparent response to a statement issued by a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday, in which she expressed concerns about human rights violations ahead of the general election slated for Thursday.

Spokesperson Liz Throssell expressed concern about violence against political parties and candidates ahead of the polls, urging Pakistani authorities to maintain the "fundamental freedoms necessary for an inclusive and meaningful democratic process."

"We are disturbed therefore by the pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) party and their supporters which has continued during the election period," said Throssell.

"Multiple legal cases have been brought against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, which have disqualified him as a candidate and sentenced him to long prison terms," she added.

The UN body added that they expect Pakistan's higher courts to carefully review these cases following applicable due process and fair trial rights, as well as the country's overall international human rights obligations.

However, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Baloch assured that "Our judicial system provides for fair trial and due process. Domestic legal remedies are available in case of any complaints in the electoral process.”

Security plans have been finalized under Pakistani electoral laws, she added.



- Free, fair polls stressed

Spokesperson Liz Throssell said, "Mindful of Pakistan’s political journey, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, appeals to the authorities to ensure a fully free and fair vote and to recommit to the democratic process and an environment that promotes and protects the full range of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights – which are clearly interconnected."

Last week, lower courts sentenced Khan to 31 years in prison in three cases, including “revealing state secrets,” “illegally” purchasing and selling of foreign gifts he received as prime minister, and “violating” Islamic marriage law.

Khan's PTI rejected the verdicts, claiming that the cases against the former premier were politically motivated.

Hundreds of his party leaders and supporters are also on trial after being arrested following violent protests and attacks on military installations in May of last year in response to Khan's brief arrest in an Islamabad corruption case.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International and several other human rights organizations urged Pakistani authorities on Tuesday to ensure that everyone in the country has uninterrupted access to the internet and digital communication platforms.

Their joint statement was issued following reports that Pakistani authorities planned to shut down the internet and social media platforms on election day. However, the caretaker government later denied the reports and assured that it has no plans to shut down the internet.

In a separate statement, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on Wednesday assured people that mobile internet services would not be suspended across the country on Thursday.

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