UN rights body condemns ‘harassment, detentions’ of (Pakistan’s) PTI leaders ahead of polls


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern on Tuesday ahead of Pakistan’s parliamentary election scheduled for Thursday, urging authorities to condemn all acts of violence against political parties and candidates while emphasising the need to uphold fundamental freedoms for a democratic process.

“In the lead-up to the vote, there have been no less than 24 reported instances in which armed groups have staged attacks against members of political parties,” Liz Throssell, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

She acknowledged the challenges Pakistan has faced over the past 15 years in maintaining democratic gains amidst security and economic hurdles.

Throssell emphasised the significance of elections as a moment to reaffirm the country’s commitment to human rights and democracy, ensuring the right to participation for all citizens, including women and minorities.

“We are disturbed by the pattern of harassment, arrests, and prolonged detentions of leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and their supporters during the election period,” said Throssell.

She highlighted multiple legal cases against former prime minister and PTI founder Imran Khan, which led to his disqualification as a candidate and sentencing to long prison terms. Throssell urged higher courts to carefully review these conclusions in line with due process and fair trial rights and Pakistan’s international human rights obligations, emphasising the need for a fair competition among all eligible parties.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also raised concerns about barriers faced by women and minority communities, particularly the Ahmadis, in the election process. Despite reserved seats for women in the National Assembly, some parties appear not to have met the legal quota for women candidates.

Throssell pointed out the separate voter lists for Ahmadis, exposing them to harassment and violence, contrary to the equal rights guaranteed to minorities in Pakistan’s Constitution.

As a call to action, Throssell, on behalf of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, appealed to Pakistani authorities to ensure a fully free and fair vote.

The statement emphasised the importance of recommitting to the democratic process and creating an environment that promotes and protects a comprehensive range of rights, including economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights, all of which are interconnected.

The appeal comes as the international community closely watches the unfolding electoral process in the country.__Tribune.com