Pakistani Canadian PTI member in Thorncliffe Park voices concerns over Pakistan election results

The aftermath of the Feb. 8 elections includes allegations of interference, protests and a new prime minister

A women from Lahore posing for a photo after voting in Pakistan's general elections 2024
A woman from Lahore posing for a photo after voting in Pakistan's general elections in February 2024. (Supplied/Toronto Observer) 

Kashif Yousaf, in more than ten years living in East York, has never felt unsafe or stopped from speaking out against the government of Canada’s policies and has faith in Canadian democratic norms.

But, the Pakistani Canadian is very worried about the safety of his family members in Pakistan following that country’s recent election and after effects.

“I have talked with my family and friends, and they are scared of being abducted or disappearing because of their support for Imran Khan and his party,” he said. “Even for myself, I am worried about visiting Pakistan, as I am an active member supporting PTI for the democratic process and constitutional supremacy of the country.”

The general elections in Pakistan were held on Feb. 8 across the country, but the official results were not declared until almost three days later. Many seats that were initially reported as wins for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), by field reporters and broadcasted by national media, were later declared in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) PMLN. This raised questions about the integrity and fairness of the elections.

A well-known cricketer and Pakistan’s former Prime Minister from 2018 – 2022, the popular Khan was arrested in August 2023 on corruption charges. He was barred from running in the Feb. 8 elections because of his arrest, which he had warned would happen, according to Al Jazeera.

Canadian Pakistanis protest at Dundas square in August 2023, calling for the release the Imran khan and other political prisoners of PTI. (Muhammad Adrees/Toronto Observer)

Following a swift trial at Adyla Jail Rawalpindi, both Khan and his wife Bushra Khan were sentenced to 14 years in prison. The case was related to the illegal sale of state gifts.

The news outlet said that in May 2023, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party “was targeted by a crackdown with thousands of arrests, reports of intimidation and muzzling of the media.”

Although he didn’t run, independent candidates affiliated with Khan’s PTI won anywhere from 92102 seats, with the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz party (PMLN), in second at 73 seats, and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won 54 seats, all short of the 169 required to win.

On March 3, PMLN leader Shehbaz Sharif, was elected as the country’s leader by the National Assembly, and PMLN and PPP formed an alliance to form government.

The PTI alleges the election was rigged, and members have held protests across the country, some of which have turned violent, with accusations of police brutality. While the PMLN has not officially responded to the allegations of rigging, a senior government official, other politicians and political analysts have also alleged election interference and rigging.

Attempts by a Toronto Observer reporter to reach PLMN members in Canada were unsuccessful.

Yousaf said the ability to express political views in Canada is very different from Pakistan.

“Living in Canada for the past 20 years, I have experienced the freedom of expression here. In Canada, if people feel that government policies are not good, they can speak and protest freely. In contrast, Pakistan presents an entirely different situation. There is a need to learn from the political process of Canada.” Yousaf said.

A family enthusiasm in thumbs, from Lahore posing for a photo after voting in Pakistan's general elections 2024 (Photo by Muhammad from Lahore)
A family from Lahore showing their enthusiasm with thumbs mark, posing for a photo after voting in Pakistan’s general elections in 2024 (Supplied by Muhammad from Lahore)

“This is not just a story related to me and my family members; there are hundred of Pakistanis in my surrounding who are worried about their families and are reluctant to visit.”

In East York, Thorncliffe Park, there are thousands of Pakistanis who live with their families actively contributing to Canada both financially and politically. Many of them work in labour market to support their families both in Canada and Pakistan.

Democracy in Pakistan has long been marred by allegations of election rigging, reflecting a broader challenge in the country’s political landscape. Pakistan, often described as an institution-less state, has a military that wields significant influence across various sectors.

In the 2018 elections, Imran khan’s victory was contested by the PMLN, which claimed that they had actually won the election but that their majority had been given to Khan. Now, in 2024, the situation seems to have reversed. PTI is alleging that they won the election, but their victory is being overturned in favour of PMLN.

“Unfortunately, mass-scale rigging, abductions, arrests without any reason, breaking the law by trespassing, and torturing women and children have become common now. These violations of human rights are highly condemnable, and Canada, as a leader in human right practices, must take action.” Yousaf said.

The PMLN, which previously raised concerns about human right violations, is now facing allegations by the PTI of human rights violations over the past two years.

The Canadian High Commission officially congratulated the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahbaz Sharif on the day of his oath-taking ceremony on March 4, held in Islamabad.

About this article

Posted: Mar 15 2024 9:00 am
Filed under: Features Government News Opinion Politics