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Pak fumes at Rice's democracy call

A Foreign Ministry statement said that Pakistan doesn't require any advice from outside on its democratic processes.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2006 13:42 IST

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry has angrily reacted to a call by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for democratic and free elections next year, saying it didn't need any "outside" advice.

The ministry released a statement late on Wednesday following Rice's visit to Islamabad a day earlier and talks with Pakistan's military President Gen Pervez Musharraf.

En route to Islamabad, Rice told reporters: "There has to be, the world expects there to be, democratic, free and fair elections in Pakistan in 2007."

Musharraf, a close US ally in the war on terror, seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999.

"On the democratic processes in Pakistan, we do not require advice from outside," said the statement.

Although Washington has previously said that it wants free and fair parliamentary polls in Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry statement said Rice didn't raise the issue during her talks with Pakistani officials.

"Such a subject was not discussed during Secretary Rice's call on the president," it said. "These matters essentially concern the people of Pakistan."

The statement said Pakistan's leadership is committed to having "free and fair elections."

Elections for Pakistan's parliament, which is currently dominated by Musharraf supporters, take place next year. Musharraf's five-year term also expires in 2007.

Pakistan's parliament chooses the president, but it is unclear if that vote will occur before or after the upcoming legislative elections.

Musharraf's ruling Pakistan Muslim League has indicated, however, that it may call for the presidential vote to be held before the parliamentary polls.

Such a move seems aimed at blocking opposition attempts to win more gains at the parliamentary elections and, in turn, stop Musharraf from winning another term.

The country's opposition, who are negotiating on forming an alliance, want Musharraf to stop wearing his military uniform, a symbol of the president's power and close relationship with the ruling armed forces.

Musharraf has said he will take a decision on his uniform at an appropriate time.