Pakistan polls could be rigged, alleges rights body

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS

Islamabad : Human Rights Watch (HRW) Friday said it has an audio recording of a top Pakistani government official saying that Monday’s elections will be rigged in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Quaid), a party backed by President Pervez Musharraf.

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In the audio recording available on HRW website, Attorney General (AG) Malik Qayyum appeared to be advising an unidentified person on what party the person should approach to become a candidate in the parliamentary poll.

“They will massively rig to get their own people to win. If you can get a ticket from these guys, take it,” the voice on the recording says in Punjabi.

However, Qayyum rejected the statement as fabricated. “It’s ridiculous and a conspiracy against Pakistan,” the attorney general, a close ally of President Pervez Musharraf, told IANS

He said he could not think of making such a statement and “that too on phone… you think I have gone made”.

“It’s an allegation, totally baseless. I have never uttered these words,” said Qayyum, former judge of the Lahore High Court.

Qayyum’s brother was member of the National Assembly on a ticket by the Pakistan Muslim League of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Why should I (do such a thing)? The election commission is holding free and fair elections and I support free and fair elections,” he said angrily, adding “I am a responsible official.”

“I am going to sue this organisation for defaming me, it’s a conspiracy because I am close to President Pervez Musharraf. They just want to hatch a conspiracy against Pakistan,” Qayyum said.

Musharraf pledged on Thursday that the elections would be free, fair and transparent, but warned opposition groups not to protest against the result if they did not accept it.

Opposition leaders have accused Musharraf’s government of trying to rig Monday’s elections in favour of his allies, in a bid to avoid possible impeachment by a hostile parliament.

The US State Department has predicted that some rigging was to be expected. The HRW has accused the election commission of lacking independence.

Following is the transcript of the telephone talk available on HRW website.

“Leave Nawaz Sharif (PAUSE)… I think Nawaz Sharif will not take part in the election (PAUSE)… If he does take part, he will be in trouble. If Benazir takes part she too will be in trouble (PAUSE)… They will massively rig to get their own people to win. If you can get a ticket from these guys, take it (PAUSE)… If Nawaz Sharif does not return himself, then Nawaz Sharif has some advantage. If he comes himself, even if after the elections rather than before, …. yes…”