The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak polls flawed, says EU

Islamabad, Oct 12: The European Union has strongly critcised the electoral process in Pakistan saying it was “seriously flawed” due to interference by the state machinery.

But the European Union observers — while not singling out the election day itself on Thursday — said: “The actions taken by the authorities led to serious flaws in the process.”

In a strongly-worded statement, the head of the observers John Cushnahan criticised unequal access to state resources and state media, limited political freedoms because of a ban on political rallies, and cast doubts on the independence of the election commission.

The EU also criticised President Pervez Musharraf for changing the constitution ahead of the elections. The amendments gave the President the right to dissolve the parliament and the government.

“Regrettably, the holding of a general election does not of itself guarantee the establishment of democracy. True democracy must ultimately lead to good governance,” Cushnahan said.

“Successive civilian and military governments have failed in this regard,” he said. The observations were made in a preliminary statement by the 88-strong EU observer team. However, the EU reaction was in sharp contrast to the comments made by the Commonwealth team yesterday.

The Commonwealth observers called the elections mostly “transparent” but had doubts whether there had been a “truly level playing field”.

With the final electoral results set to be 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. The MMA won an absolute majority in the NWFP where sentiments were high against the government policy of supporting the US-led war against the Taliban.

At the national level, no single party has got majority and all indications are that after a massive horse trading and adjustments, a pro-Musharraf coalition would form the government at the centre.

Some of the leaders who were tipped as future Prime Ministers have lost. They include the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) — popularly known as the king’s party — Mian Azhar from Punjab and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Illahi Bakhsh Soomro of Sindh.

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