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UN rights office voices concern ahead of elections in Pakistan

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OHCHR denounced all acts of violence against political parties and candidates in the lead-up to Thursday’s vote.

Spokesperson Liz Throssell said there have been no less than 24 reported instances in which armed groups have staged attacks against members of political parties.

Harassment, arrests and detentions

OHCHR also voiced concern over the pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders and supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) party, which is headed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Multiple legal cases have been brought against Mr. Khan, which have disqualified him as a candidate and sentenced him to long prison terms.

“We expect the higher courts will carefully review these conclusions in line with applicable due process and fair trial rights and Pakistan’s wider international human rights obligations; all eligible parties must be able to compete fairly,” Ms. Throssell said.

Women and minorities

The election is also a reminder of the barriers faced by women and minority communities in Pakistan, particularly the Ahmadis, she added.

Despite 22 per cent of seats in the National Assembly being reserved for women, some political parties appear to have not met the legal quota of having five per cent women candidates on their party lists.

“Separate voter lists – as is the case for the Ahmadis – expose them to harassment and violence despite the equal rights guaranteed to minorities in Pakistan’s constitution,” she said.

Elections are an important moment to reaffirm the country’s commitment to human rights and democracy and to ensure the right to participation of all its people, including women and minorities, OHCHR said.

Mindful of Pakistan’s political journey, Mr. Türk appealed 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 human rights.

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