Musharraf in Brussels. (Reuters)
Brussels, Jan. 21 (Reuters): President Pervez Musharraf pledged to hold free elections as he began a European trip today aimed at bolstering outside support, but urged the West not to hold Pakistan to unrealistic rights standards.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the former army chief that the February 18 polls meant to complete a transition to civilian rule must be free, fair and secure and their conduct would determine the level of future EU cooperation.
Musharraf, his popularity in decline in Pakistan after a year of turmoil that has seen stepped up militant attacks and the assassination of Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on December 27, said he wanted to correct perceptions during his tour.
We are determined to hold free, fair and transparent elections, and peaceful elections... There is no possibility of it being rigged, he told reporters in Brussels, where he met EU and Nato officials.
Asked how he would handle any victory by political opponents, he replied: Whoever wins, obviously power will be handed over... There is no question at all that we will deny forming a government to whichever party forms a majority.
Musharraf said there was no possibility of Pakistans nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of extremists, as it was under tight military control.
That could be possible only and only if these terrorists can defeat the Pakistan army... or if they were to win in the elections coming about on February 18, of which there is no chance whatsoever.
Responding to concerns over human rights and democracy, Musharraf said he believed in both but termed western preoccupation with the issues obsessive.
Geo TV back on air
Broadcasts of Pakistans private Geo television network resumed in Pakistan today more than two-and-half months after its transmission was blocked following the imposition of a state of emergency.