Musharraf Tells Pakistan to Avoid Election Violence, Protests
By Paul Tighe

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) — President Pervez Musharraf said violence during Pakistan’s general elections next week won’t be tolerated and voters must avoid raising tensions by alleging ballots were rigged.

”Do not test the resolve of the government,” Musharraf said in Islamabad yesterday, according to the official Associated Press of Pakistan. ”No agitation, anarchy or chaos can be acceptable.”

The Feb. 18 ballot will be “fair, free and transparent,” Musharraf said. He appealed to international organizations to avoid inciting trouble in Pakistan by pre-judging results.

Pakistan’s election will be influenced by the Dec. 27 killing of Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, which sparked riots across the country. The Washington-based International Republican Institute forecast earlier this week that the opposition will win the elections to the 342-member Parliament and the four provincial assemblies.

Opposition parties say the ballot won’t be fair under Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999, and imposed a state of emergency last November in the face of months of demonstrations against his rule.

”Let there be no doubt that anyone will be allowed to resort to lawlessness in the garb of allegations about rigging in the elections,” Musharraf said yesterday, according to APP. ”There should be no exaggerated expectations.”

Supporters who think they will get 80 percent of seats and end up with 30 to 40 percent will blame it on a rigged election, which won’t be true, he added.

Election Win
Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who now leads the PPP, said last month the party will win a majority in parliament and may decide to work with Musharraf.

Nawaz Sharif, like Bhutto a former prime minister of Pakistan, said at the same time he won’t work with the president if his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party wins.

Pakistan’s Election Commission isn’t impartial and has failed to act on allegations of irregularities, Human Rights Watch said in a report Feb. 12.

The commission is ignoring the arrest and harassment of opposition candidates and the misuse of state resources to the advantage of candidates backed by Musharraf, Human Rights Watch said in the report. Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi rejected the report and said those accusing the government of rigging the elections were finding excuses.

Second Term
Musharraf, 64, started a second five-year term as president in November after stepping aside as head of the army. He is backed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam party.

As many as 3,000 international observers have been granted visas for the elections, Nisar A. Memon, the acting interior minister, said yesterday, according to APP.

Pakistan’s stability and security would improve if Musharraf resigned, 64 percent of Pakistanis said in an opinion poll published yesterday. Forty-six percent said they lacked confidence the national ballot scheduled for Feb. 18 would be free and fair, according to the survey for the British Broadcasting Corp.

The survey for BBC Urdu was conducted by Gallup Pakistan between Jan. 27 and 28. It interviewed 1,476 Pakistanis aged more than 18 nationwide. No margin of error was given.

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