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EU asks Pak to hold free and fair polls

The European Union has warned that Islamabad's relations with them could be impaired if the polls were not held in a transparent manner.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 17:31 IST

As Pakistan prepares for general elections next year, the European Union has warned that Islamabad's relations with them could be impaired if the polls were not held in a fair and transparent manner.

The EU has made it clear to Pakistan that if the forthcoming general elections are not held in a fair manner, the country stands a chance of impairing its relations with them, British Parliamentarian Nina Gill, heading a seven member EU Parliament delegation to Pakistan told reporters in Lahore on Thursday.

"EU desires the elections to be held in a transparent manner, with complete schedule being announced well in advance of six months.

This would enable our monitoring team to survey the pre-election and post-election procedures carefully," she said.

She said during the delegation's talks with President Pervez Musharraf, he has assured the EU that an interim government will be inducted three months before the polls.

"This was a very timely visit as Pakistan is preparing for the 2007 elections, and we are pleased to learn that EU observers would be welcomed by the government," she said.

About the controversy over Musharraf continuing as chief of Army and President, she said the president had informed them that the uniform was necessary for fighting the war on terror.

When asked about India-Pakistan peace process, Gill urged both the countries to increase and introduce new confidence building measures besides boosting commerce and trade between them as it plays a vital role in ensuring peace in any region.

She said the Indian government was responding positively to the four-point agenda posed by Musharraf for resolving the Kashmir issue.

"If the two countries stick to their viewpoints, the problem will persist," she said. On the reluctance of the government to permit former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto to participate in the polls, Gill said if they wanted to contest the elections they should be allowed to do so.

However, she parried the question about what would be the EU role if the government declines to allow them to contest the elections.

"We also had interaction with the Election Commission of Pakistan and urged it to practically impose EU's suggestions for conducting fair and free elections in the country," she said, adding that the suggestions include proper registration of political parties, preparation of voter lists, establishment of polling booths at impartial venues and equal access to the media for all political players.

When asked about the rehabilitation process of the victims of last year's earthquake in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), she said the delegation during its visit to the province saw some 'good projects' but was alarmed to see that many Kashmiris were spending a second winter in tents.

The pace of rehabilitation work should be accelerated besides proper and timely utilisation of funds, she said, adding that as a major donor the EU was concerned about the utilisation of funds.