Pakistan defence minister criticises US House call for probe into election

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's defence minister on Wednesday criticised a U.S. House of Representatives resolution calling for a probe of alleged voting irregularities in the South Asian nation's February general election.

The vote, in which no single party won a clear majority, was marred by violence, communication blackouts and allegations by the party of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan that the polls were rigged. The country's election commission denies this.

"They have no right to interfere in our internal affairs or give any sort of verdict on the matter," Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told local broadcaster Geo News.

He said the resolution, passed on Tuesday, had "no value" and was political posturing in an election year in the United States. In addition to calling for an independent investigation, the U.S. House resolution condemned any effort to subvert the electoral process.

Pakistan's foreign office released a more carefully worded statement, saying that the resolution "stems from an incomplete understanding of the political situation and electoral process in Pakistan."

Washington's support will be crucial for Islamabad in coming weeks as it looks to secure a fresh bailout from the International Monetary Fund to stave off an economic crisis.

The resolution will not have much impact on Washington's policy towards Pakistan, Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center's South Asia Institute, said in a post on social media platform X.

But, he added, it raised questions about whether Pakistan legislation could follow, noting bipartisan support for the resolution.

The resolution was welcomed by Khan's party, which was banned from contesting the elections.

"The hope is that other nations and leaders will follow the U.S. House's example," senior Khan aide Zulfikar Bukhari said in a text message.

Independent candidates backed by Khan won the most seats but did not have the numbers to form a government. Instead an alliance of his rivals formed a government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The polls remain contentious and are facing a number of legal challenges.

(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)