CIVIL SOCIETY PAKISTAN

February 15, 2008

Efforts underway to rig polls for Musharraf’s allies: ex-official

Filed under: ELECTIONS - 2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 3:36 am

THE NEWS

FEBRUARY 15, 2008
Asif Mehmood
LONDON – All out efforts are being made to rig general elections in Pakistan, which are due next week, in favour of President Pervez Musharraf’s political allies, according to a retired senior intelligence official.
In a report published by British newspaper, The Telegraph, the intelligence agencies have targeted key rural constituencies, whey he alleged that electoral rolls have been fixed, ballot boxes ‘pre-stuffed’ and presiding officers appointed at polling stations.
The polls on Monday will determine the political future of Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led war on terror and the ruling party- PML-Q. Gen (R) Musharraf, who sacked the judiciary to pave the way for his re-election as president two months ago, is not contesting the elections. But if his political allies fail to secure a win, he could face impeachment by a hostile parliament.
According to the report, the retired intelligence official alleged that the country’s powerful military intelligence agencies had focused on rigging marginal seats in Punjab for enabling the PML-Q to get into the next parliament.
“Nothing is needed on the day. It is all pre-planned,” he said. “The ISI has directed and advised the PML-Q which seats need to be targeted and also assisted them in achieving favourable results.” He cited various methods of rigging elections including intimidating local politicians to transfer their vote banks and confiscating villagers’ identity cards that will then be used in postal ballots.
The Punjab is the most important province regarding politics in Pakistan than any other province. However, the retired intelligence official said that despite the manipulation of election results Musharraf’s party would struggle to gain control of the parliament. “Rigging will not be enough,” he said. “If it is overdone, people will come into the streets”.
The third opinion poll in a week showed Musharraf’s popularity plummeting, with the majority of respondents saying he was an obstacle to stability. A survey released this week by the US government-funded International Republican Institute said half the Pakistanis polled to vote for the party of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto, 22 per cent backed the Nawaz Sharif’s party and only 14 per cent favoured the PML-Q. The 1970 election was the first and the only one regarded as fair in a country where intelligence agencies fiddle elections and generals have justified successive coups.
PML(N) said it would hand a dossier on the irregularities to Robert Evans, the London MEP who is leading a team of election monitors from the European Union. Earlier this week the EU expressed concern about the elections, urging authorities to improve arrangements and set free the political detainees.
Mr Malik denied the allegations, saying that the superintendent had been transferred, as he had not been able to maintain law and order.
Mr Musharraf has sought to quash poll-rigging reports. “Despite all rumours, insinuations and all types of apprehension, these elections will be free, fair, transparent and peaceful,” he said, after claiming the vote will be “the mother of all elections”. He added, “It is not possible to stop some sort of problems at the tactical level on the question of rigging, but we have taken all measures to make it rigging-free.”
The assassination of Benazir in December sparked a wave of anti-government violence and her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, warned that there could be more protests if the elections are rigged. Mr Musharraf’s chances of political survival are at stake on the PML-Q’s ability to strike a power-sharing deal with Mr Zardari, who held his first election rally few days back amid fears of a terrorist attack, the report said.

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