The Pakistan government should curtail the interference of security and intelligence agencies in the electoral process and ensure the involvement of all parties to guarantee the upcoming general election is free and fair, a leading US organisation said on Sunday.
A four-member delegation of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), led by former US Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, also said the ensuing polls require urgent steps by the government to contain political violence, produce an accurate voters' list and protect the rights of women voters'.
A delegation reached its findings, which were released in Islamabad on Sunday, after five days of meetings with government and electoral officials, political party leaders, civil society and media representatives, and international organisations.
Unless the steps listed by NDI are taken, the crucial parliamentary election due in January "risk being perceived as compromised and unrepresentative, and could lead to deeper civil unrest and military involvement in politics," it said.
"If the integrity of the elections is seriously compromised and not seen as representative of the will of the people, the nation could face increased civil conflict and the military could become further entrenched in the nation's political life," the delegation warned.
It also found that violent incidents like the October 18 suicide attack on former premier Benazir Bhutto in Karachi and the ongoing political and religiously-inspired violence could increase as the national and provincial assembly polls approach.
The delegation also urged the government, Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and political parties to "take immediate steps towards providing a safer electoral environment."