“Millions of Pakistanis made their voices heard at the polls on February 8. We will work with the Pakistani government, regardless of political party, to advance our shared interests and strive to bolster democratic institutions and broaden political participation,” the US State Department said in a statement amid post-election tumult in Pakistan.
The statement notably did not endorse claims by Imran Khan or Nawaz Sharif that they had won the election. Instead, the reference to broadening political participation appeared to encourage a possible coalition government.
Separately, the State Department’s South Asia bureau said Washington looks forward to “strengthening our partnership by promoting Pakistan’s democracy, the #USPAK Green Alliance framework, people-to-people ties, human rights, security cooperation, and trade and investment.”
Conflicting and contested claims in the Pakistan election came after a turbulent run-up during which Imran Khan’s ouster from power that was attributed to US disapproval of his policies. Notably, Khan, who was sharply critical of the US legacy in Pakistan, went to Moscow to build bridges with Russia, meeting President Vladimir Putin literally on the eve of his invasion of Ukraine.
While ties between Washington and Islamabad have been strained for several years now, the US has continued to engage Pakistan mainly in an effort to prevent it from falling completely into the China-Russia orbit.
Following Friday’s turbulent developments in which both Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan claimed victory, several US lawmakers urged the Biden administration not to recognize the election results till thorough investigations into allegations of rigging and fraud are concluded.
“This is a critical moment for Pakistan. I am deeply concerned by the growing evidence that the military is interfering and rigging the result to overturn the will of the Pakistani people. The US should not recognize a winner until all the facts are investigated,” tweeted California Democrat Ro Khanna.
From Somali-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar: “I am deeply troubled by reports of interference in this week’s election in Pakistan. The legitimacy of any incoming government rests on fair elections, free of manipulation, intimidation, or fraud. The Pakistani people deserve nothing less than a transparent democratic process and true representative government. I call on the State Department to refrain from recognizing the results until credible, independent investigations have been conducted into the numerous allegations of misconduct.”
Claims of a comprehensive win for Imran Khan have been powered by an army of keyboard warriors on social media who appeared to have overwhelmed the Pakistani military’s alleged efforts to marginalize him.
In a “fact check” published by the respected Dawn newspaper in partnership with iVerify Pakistan — a project of Center for Excellence in Journalism and UNDP — reports attributed to foreign media that Khan’s party had won a majority were found to be false. The report indicated a much closer result, albeit with Khan’s proxies winning more seats.