Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has promised that next week’s elections will be “free, fair and transparent”. He has categorically rejected allegations made by opposition politicians that the poll will be rigged in favour of his political allies. But human rights organisations and opponents claim pre-poll rigging is already going on.
Benazir Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari has accused the government of rigging the vote
President Pervez Musharraf sent a clear message to all political parties participating in next Monday’s elections, as well as to international observers that he will not allow any agitation after the elections or any allegations about rigging.
He said whoever wins would be able to form the government and told the international community to not get involved: “I would like to say to all these, especially foreign, organisations who are conducting all these surveys: Don’t disturb the peace of the country. Don’t disturb the peace of the region; you are playing with the peace of the world.”
But various independent human rights organisations warned that the current repressive political environment in Pakistan would prevent the elections from being free and fair, despite what President Musharraf has said.
Partisan Election Commission
Ali Dayan Hasan from the South Asia desk of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan said there was plenty of pre-poll rigging going on and said the Election Commission was “partisan” and not “following up on complaints filed by the Opposition, which number at least 1500.”
“There has also been a concerted attempt by the state to provide state resources, which include infrastructure and finances, to government-backed candidates. We have also documented harassments and the filing of criminal charges against hundreds of thousands of opposition activists.”
Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, one of the Pakistan People’s Party candidates, accused the government of harassing her and trying to scare her into giving up her campaign. She also says she has received death threats.
She explained her constituency was famous because her opponent Chaudary Amir Husain was the sitting speaker in the interim government.
“He is a candidate from the Pakistan Muslim League (Q). He was the caretaker president when President Musharraf went on his Europe trip last month. In these circumstances one can understand that the state machinery, establishment and police are supporting him and what kind of ‘free and fair elections’ might be held”
Pakistan reportedly has the lowest voter turnout in the world and the lowest in South Asia. Many of the pre- poll surveys have found that many Pakistanis -- over half -- will not vote next Monday because they don’t think their vote can make a difference.