Pakistan attorney-general denies making 'rigging' comment

Updated on Feb 15, 2008 03:52 PM IST
Malik Qayyum rejects a statement by a US-based rights group that said it had obtained a recording of him predicting next week's elections will be "massively rigged."
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AFP | By, Islamabad

Pakistan's attorney-general on Friday rejected a statement by a US-based rights group that said it had obtained a recording of him predicting next week's elections will be "massively rigged."

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that in the audio recording Malik Qayyum appeared to be advising an unidentified person on what party the person should approach to become a candidate in the parliamentary poll.

"They will massively rig to get their own people to win. If you can get a ticket from these guys, take it," the voice on the recording says in Urdu.

Qayyum, a close ally of President Pervez Musharraf, said however that the allegation was "ridiculous... a conspiracy against Pakistan" and denied making the comment.

"It is a ridiculous allegation, totally baseless. I have never uttered these words," Qayyum told AFP.

"Why should I? The election commission is holding free and fair elections and I support free and fair elections."

The attorney general said his brother was a member of the party of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif "so on the face of it it is absolutely nonsense".

"I am going to sue this organisation for defaming me, it's a conspiracy because I am close to President Pervez Musharraf. They just want to hatch a conspiracy against Pakistan," Qayyum said.

Musharraf pledged on Thursday that the elections would be free, fair and transparent, but warned opposition groups not to protest against the result if they did not accept it.

Opposition figures have accused Musharraf's government of trying to rig Monday's elections in favour of his allies, in a bid to avoid possible impeachment by a hostile parliament.

The US State Department has predicted that some rigging was to be expected in the election process, while HRW has accused the election commission of lacking independence.

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