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Pakistan denies claim that elections will be rigged

Latest update : 2008-02-16

Pakistan's Attorney General Malik Qayyum denied claims that Pakistan's elections to be held Monday would be 'massively rigged,' a prediction made by Human Rights Watch last week.

Pakistan's attorney-general Friday rejected a statement by a US-based rights group that said it had obtained a recording of him predicting next week's elections will be "massively rigged."

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that in the audio recording 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 Urdu, without identifying who would do the rigging.

Qayyum, a close ally of President Pervez Musharraf, said however that the allegation was "ridiculous... a conspiracy against Pakistan" and denied making the comment.

"It is a ridiculous allegation, totally baseless. I have never uttered these words," Qayyum told AFP.

"Why should I? The election commission is holding free and fair elections and I support free and fair elections."

HRW said the recording was made during a phone interview between the attorney general and a reporter in November 2007. Qayyum took a call on another telephone and his side of that conversation was recorded, it said.

But the attorney general said his brother was a member of the party of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif "so on the face of it it is absolutely nonsense."

"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.

HRW director Brad Adams declined to respond to the attorney general's warning of legal action, saying, "the recording in the tape speaks for itself."

A spokesman for former premier Sharif described the HRW recording as "shameful".

"This is the evidence of what we have been saying for a long time, that the Musharraf regime has planned to rig the elections," Pakistan-Muslim League-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal told AFP.

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

A US Congressional team travelling to Pakistan to observe the election warned Musharraf's administration Friday of "consequences" if the polls were not free, fair and transparent.

Opposition figures 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.

Slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, this week threatened to stage demonstrations if the polls are fraudulent and urged supporters to "besiege" polling stations to make sure the vote is fair.

Pakistani police meanwhile arrested a fifth man on suspicion of involvement in the December 27 assassination of Bhutto, an investigator said Friday.

The suspect, identified as Abdur Rasheed, was taken into custody from a house on Thursday in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

"Abdur Rasheed was a key member of the gang (which plotted Bhutto's murder) and was involved in providing weapons to the group members," a senior police investigator told AFP.

Rasheed was not at the scene of the killing, he added.

Four Islamic militants, two arrested from the northwest frontier region and another two from Rawalpindi, are already under interrogation.

Police have also arrested 10 militants linked to the Taliban who were plotting massive terror attacks in Karachi during next week's general election, a police chief said on Friday.

The militants had ties to top Taliban commander Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, who was arrested and injured in a Pakistani border region earlier this week, said Azhar Farooqi, the police chief of southern Sindh province.

"They had plans to sabotage the election process. The city and the province as a whole has been saved from a major disaster on election day," Farooqi told a news conference.

Date created : 2008-02-15