With No Announced Date Or Schedule, Why Is One EU Parliamentarian Worried About Invitations?

With No Announced Date Or Schedule, Why Is One EU Parliamentarian Worried About Invitations?
Over the last week different newspapers have been publishing the report on a meeting that took place with Mr. Michael Gahler a German member of the EU Parliament.  The EU in Pakistan sponsored some leading journalists from Pakistan to undertake a mission to Brussels to meet members of parliament, policy makers, press amongst others.

One is simply amazed at the reporting by the News, Express Tribune and Dawn where, out of 705 members only one single Parliamentary member’s view, is being projected as a point of concern and anxiety for elections in Pakistan, (unless it was stated otherwise for which I could not find in any story under reference). These news reports also make me understand (and I may be wrong) that fact correction was not offered by anyone in that interview.

Mr. Gahler is anxious about not yet having received an invitation from the Government of Pakistan to observe the upcoming General Elections. The fact remains that the neither the date for general elections has been set nor the election schedule issued.

However, Mr. Gahler shared that the EU has been pursing for an Election Observer Mission invite since January 2023 despite the fact that the EU’s parliament has decided not to field an election observation mission due to “internal reasons” and only an election expert group of 5-7 persons will be fielded.

Mr. Gahler has the unique advantage of being the three-time leader of the EU Electoral Observer Mission to Pakistan. This in itself is against the working ethics of an independent electoral observation mission as it has high probability to affects the objectivity. And while two consecutive missions to one place are exception yet Mr. Gahler has managed to lead three visits.

However, I share the same concerns and anxiety of Mr. Gahler regarding the upcoming general elections in Pakistan in terms of both transparency and timing. While having led three election observation missions to Pakistan, and pushing to get an invitation for fourth, I can’t comprehend that how could he confuse/overlook that:

(a) There is no fixed date for the general elections;

(b) It is linked to the dissolution of the National Assembly (NA) i.e.  elections are mandated to be held within 60 days upon completion of the term of the NA and within 90 days if its dissolved before completion of tenure;

(c) The option of having national and/or international observer mission is part of the election schedule which is announced within seven days of the dissolution of the National Assembly;

(d) The mandate to issue invitation for such mission lies with the Election Commission of Pakistan post announcement of the election schedule. Had he had forgotten it, both the EU mission in Pakistan and/or visiting journalist could have explained it to him.

The fact also remains that the same had been explained during the Pak-EU bilateral meetings at the level of the Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Mr. Gahler and surely the EU mission in Pakistan was privy to the information.

Setting up a meeting with top rated journalists of Pakistan, in a sponsored visit, with Mr. Gahler was also presumably planned in advance. A backgrounde or messages or talking points (give it any name) are also shared in advance by the sponsoring Mission ( EU in Pakistan in this case) to make the best of the opportunity.

When I assess Mr.Gahler’s statement within this contextualisation, I wonder about the agenda or need of this statement?

Was it doubting the elaboration of the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs on the topic?

Was it conveying a message for ‘certain quarters’ in support of a ‘certain political stakeholder and party’?

Was it a message from the EU parliament to the Government of Pakistan and the Establishment?

Or are we to take it as just a statement of concern by a member of Parliament who happened to have led election observation missions and has a personal interest in democracy in Pakistan?

Mr. Gahler chose to violate the principles of objectivity and impartiality, for a member or lead of any election observation mission, by giving explicit political opinion which is reflective of bias and is taken as a conflict of interest.


This principle applies to even after completion of assignment because the Election Observation report and its recommendations remain valid for both the host country and Mission till next elections; and are the base document for next election observation mission. Within this contextualisation let’s review the following statements:

1. Tribune story: (a) The people should be allowed to decide the fate of any (political) party or leader instead of a third force; (b) “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 the third forces that have their own agenda”; (c) it is about parties and the candidates to stand and its should be the voters to decide and not any headquarter in Rawalpindi or wherever it might be situated.””


2. Dawn story: Mr. Hamid Mir reported that “Mr.Gahler spoke harshly about the circumstances surrounding Pakistan’s upcoming elections. He categorically said that the military is destabilizing not just democracy in Pakistan but also the economy and society and the politicians must adopt a harsh stance against their interference.” He also noted that keeping Imran Khan out of electoral process and blocking his coverage was undemocratic.


The above statements are not only against the principles of an observer but can also be interpreted as (a) allegations against the armed forces of Pakistan; (b) interferences in the internal affairs of a government; and (c) incitement to institutional aggression especially to politician in a fragile political situation where tipping of balance can derail democracy in Pakistan.

Mr. Hamid Mir, in his story as reported in The News on July 6 while quoting Mr.Gahler, stated that it was obvious to them that military establishment was supporting Imran Khan to be the PM in 2018.

The Dawn story reports, while referencing Mr. Mir quoting Mr.Gahler, that “the 2018 elections, were rigged and manipulated; and that the army imposed Imran Khan on the country.”

This contradicts the statement made in the Final report of the EU observation mission 2018 (https://www.eeas.europa.eu/sites/default/files/final_report_pakistan_2018_english_0.pdf) which was led by Mr. Gahler.

The Executive summary states that “The 25 July 2018 general elections followed, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, two terms of continuous civilian rule with two elected legislatures completing their terms. The elections took place against a background of allegations of interference in the electoral process by the military-led establishment and the role of the judiciary as a political actor.”

These statements are not only highly charged and political in nature but beyond the mandate of an electoral observer. EU parliament and EU delegation in Pakistan must clarify what exactly was the need for such statements.

Mr. Gahler’s charged interview also begs the questions that firstly, who is the target audience of this message? And secondly, why an invitation of election observation is being constructed as an issue when its not even time.

If it concerns the political views of an independent member of EU Parliament (1 out of 750) then it can be termed as someone throwing a punch over one’s weight, besides being a diplomatic over reach.

While the Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs response remains to be seen, the Election Commission of Pakistan has already responded by stating that “all the stories regarding the disallowance of international observers are based on hearsay and assumption and should not be relied upon.”

This also warrants a question to the EU Parliament that can a MNA from Pakistan make similar charged statements on working of the EU and its military command? How would that be received by the EU Parliament?

Besides all of above what I missed was that any ‘hard talk’ by our ace journalists that could very well ask all the questions and concerns that I could list while reading these reports.

I struggle to also appreciate the statement in the Dawn story that attributed to the visiting journalist that “the Pakistan Embassy was hawkishly watching us but we did not tell them (EU Parliament) anything they did not already knew. (sic) Nothing escaped them.”

Does it mean that there was no one touched base with the Pakistani mission in Brussels? This begs the question on how could journalists miss the opportunity to get the home team’s side of the story which in itself could have augmented their learning exchange?

This entire situation is a sorry and deeply questionable.