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Pak opposition worried about poll rigging

Meanwhile Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has brushed aside fears of rigging in February's general elections, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Jan 18, 2008 22:51 IST
Kamal Siddiqi
Kamal Siddiqi
Hindustan Times

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has brushed aside fears of rigging in February's general elections despite allegations from opposition parties and warnings from human rights groups.

Musharraf told the press on Friday that fears about rigging prior to holding of the polls are "unjustified". The Pakistan president said no one would be allowed to disturb the law and order situation in the country before or after the upcoming elections. Last week, Musharraf announced that the army and other paramilitary forces would be deployed at polling stations to avert incidents of violence.

But opposition parties have said that the "stage is being set" for large-scale rigging. Safdar Abbasi, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader, commented that transfers of police and election officers indicated that the government was intent on some "massive rigging in key constituencies."

But a confident Musharraf told journalists in Islamabad that the possibility of rigging was "remote" and resolved to hold fair and free elections in the country on February 18.

The Election Commission of Pakistan for its part has asked the Sindh police chief to explain why there were transfers of key police officials despite a ban on such postings. Opposition leaders and human rights groups have stated that the transfers were intended to "accommodate" politicians close to the Musharraf government.

Musharraf said he had no intention of meeting any political leader before the polls and would meet them only after elections for the formation of the next government with national consensus.

Calling Benazir Bhutto's assassination an irrecoverable national loss, President Musharraf said the Scotland Yard investigation team was already probing into the case and that a final report was awaited. PPP leaders have rejected the Scotland Yard probe and, instead, called for a UN investigation.