February 15, 2008 in Nation/World

Pakistani official taped saying vote will be rigged

Jonathan S. Landay McClatchy
 

FAISALABAD, Pakistan – A prominent U.S.-based human rights group today released what it said was a recording of Pakistan’s attorney general acknowledging that next week’s national elections would be “massively” rigged.

Human Rights Watch said a journalist made the recording during a telephone interview with Attorney General Malik Qayyum when Qayyum took a second call without disconnecting the first, allowing his end of the second conversation to be overheard and recorded.

In the recording, Qayyum, Pakistan’s top legal officer, can be heard advising the caller to accept a ticket he is being offered by an unidentified political party for a seat, Human Rights Watch said.

“They will massively rig to get their own people to win,” Qayyum said, according to a transcript released by Human Rights Watch. “If you get a ticket from these guys, take it.”

Human Rights Watch said it had tried repeatedly to contact Qayyum, a staunch supporter of President Pervez Musharraf, but had been unable to reach him.

The potentially incendiary recording was made the day that elections were announced for Jan. 8, according to Human Rights Watch, which said the Urdu-language recording could be heard on its Web site, www.hrw.org. The polls for the national assembly and four provincial legislatures were postponed until this Monday after large-scale violence ignited by the Dec. 27 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The recording was certain to add to widespread fears that the polls will be rigged in favor of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the party that supports the authoritarian and hugely unpopular Musharraf.

On Thursday, Musharraf warned the opposition that it must accept the outcome of Monday’s voting without resorting to massive street protests.

“Let there be no doubt that anyone will be allowed to resort to lawlessness in the garb of allegations about rigging in the elections,” Musharraf was quoted as telling a seminar of government officials in Islamabad by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan. “Let this serve as a warning to all those who think they can disturb the peace of the country. They will not be allowed. Do not test the resolve of the government.”

Fears that the polls will be fixed have been stoked by a series of public opinion surveys showing the Pakistan Peoples Party and other parties poised to capture enough seats to begin impeachment proceedings against Musharraf for controversial constitutional changes he imposed last year to extend his grip on power.


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