EU not to send election observer mission to Pakistan


BRUSSELS: The European Union (EU) has decided not to send its election observer mission to Pakistan for the next parliamentary polls, citing certain internal constraints as well as a non-invitation from Islamabad, as a senior EU Parliament member stressed that the fate of any party or leader must not be decided by a “third force”.

The EU sent its observer missions to Pakistan for the previous three elections in 2008, 2013, and 2018. Michael Gahler, member of EU Parliament, headed those missions.

He told a group of Pakistani journalists visiting Brussels on Wednesday that the EU will not send an observer mission but experts for the coming elections in Pakistan.

However, he said the EU had not yet received an invitation from Pakistan to even send experts.

“Apparently, yes. I am not happy about that. That is, so to say, for our internal discussion,” Gahler replied when asked whether it was EU’s decision not to deploy observer mission.

Other issues, including previous experiences of the EU observer mission, also played a part in the decision.

The expert mission, if deployed, is not the same as EU observer mission. Expert missions comprise only 3 to 5 people compared to 50-member EU observer missions deployed in the previous elections.

EU observers on previous occasions had the mandate to visit all parts of the country and observed not just voting but were deployed well ahead of the elections. Experts, however, will not have such a mandate or resources.

After the 2018 elections, the EU observer mission had made 30 recommendations to Pakistan to ensure transparency in future elections.

“And from these 30 recommendations, let’s be honest, two to three have been implemented,” Gahler said, expressing concerns over the state of democracy in Pakistan.

Against the backdrop of reports that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan might not be allowed to contest elections, Gahler said people should be allowed to decide the fate of any party or leader instead of a “third force”.

“I would wish that, for the next elections, every candidate can stand because his party or his local supporters want him or her to stand. And it should not be influenced by ‘third forces’ that have their own agenda,” he said without mentioning Imran by name.

“It is about the parties and the candidates to stand and it’s about the voters to decide and not any headquarters in Rawalpindi or wherever it might be situated,” he