The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak polls flawed, Atal tells Blair

London, Oct. 12: The elections in Pakistan were flawed and their results pre-determined, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told his British counterpart here.

Vajpayee, who met Tony Blair at Chequers, the country residence of the British Prime Minister, expressed concern over the electoral victory of extremist Islamic parties in two Pakistani provinces (Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province) bordering Afghanistan.

He expressed the apprehension that Islamic extremists in Afghanistan could regroup and reorganise themselves.

India’s assessment, Vajpayee said, was that these extremist forces could not have emerged without the encouragement of the government of Pakistan. Indian external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, briefing reporters after the Checkers meeting, said: “Prime Minister Vajpayee told the British Prime Minister that the elections were flawed ab initio.”

With the final results almost announced, the alliance of religious parties, the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), is set to form its government in the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan. At the national level, no single party has got majority and indications are that after intense political jockeying, a pro-Pervez Musharraf coalition would form the government at the Centre.

Till evening today, the MMA had secured 50 of the 272 constituency seats in the National Assembly, the Pakistan Muslim League (QA), loyal to Musharraf, 78, and Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian 62. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League faction has got only 15.

The European Union also criticised the elections, saying they were “seriously flawed” due to interference by the state machinery.

The British Prime Minister congratulated Vajpayee on the successful conclusion of the elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Blair apparently said that he thought they were free and fair although unfortunately they were marred by violence.

The British Prime Minister, unlike the European Union, endorsed the Indian position that a dialogue with Pakistan could not go hand in hand with cross-border terrorism. Blair did not make any attempt to advise India to start a dialogue with Pakistan. He emphasised the need to end cross-border terrorism to create a conducive atmosphere for a dialogue.

Blair briefed Vajpayee on the discussions he has had with other world leaders on the developments relating to Iraq. Vajpayee, however, made it clear that India was in favour of a multilateral approach to resolving the issue. While India wanted Iraq to fully comply fully and effectively with the UN resolutions and allow weapons inspectors full access, Vajpayee told Blair that whatever had to be done must be done under the aegis of the United Nations and not unilaterally.

The Indian position also is that if there is evidence of Iraq complying fully then the UN Security Council should lift the sanctions against Iraq.

The two leaders reviewed the progress of bilateral relations on the basis of the New Delhi Declaration signed on January 6 earlier this year. Both expressed satisfaction over the progress made since then and agreed to enhance economic cooperation.

They discussed the possibility of two-way investment with companies from each country investing in the other, converting India into a “research hub” for British companies and encouraging Indian and British firms to invest jointly in third countries.

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