Rani Singh

81 million voters “enabled”

81 million voters "enabled"
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Pakistani officials keep telling us that all is rosy for the upcoming elections.  The Election Commission of Pakistan, which is overseeing procedure on February 18th, has announced that it will “enable” around 81 million to vote.  While the Punjab province President of the PML (Q) pro-Musharraf party spoke on Tuesday about reforms, which mean that there is “no chance of rigging the elections”.

Not everyone’s convinced. Wajid Shamsul Hassan, the PPP’s UK spokesman, wrote a complaining letter which was published in the Guardian on Tuesday, pointing out that only recently

“Pakistan was suspended from the Commonwealth for breaking democratic norms.” 

Like Wajid Shamsul Hassan, Imran Khan’s UK representative, Shahid Dastgir Khan, has been critical of British Government support for Musharraf, saying that Brown’s policy in this matter was “seriously flawed.” Neither he nor Shamsul Hasan considers the Pakistani media to be operating in a free environment. Dastgir Khan highlighted the 78-day blackout of GEO TV.

Meanwhile, Labour’s Lord Soley, a chief guest at a formal Bohra mosque function in London this week, told Coffee House that:

“The problems in Pakistan are so serious that everybody has got to help them achieve stability, the rule of law, and democracy...Pakistan does have a good basis of law and is at times very close to having a democratic system, so what everyone has to do is to go the extra mile to make this work. It won’t be a perfect election but it will be a very important step and if it is, in overall terms, a fair election, then it will give the political parties a chance to form a stable government and that’s what everyone wants.”

He didn’t elaborate on how this might be achieved.

Worryingly, the backdrop of violence remains. Yesterday, Dawn reported that police “have collected limbs from a wide area”, after explosives carried by a man accidentally blew-up in his hand before he got to his target destination in Quetta, Balochistan province’s capital city.

Militants and neo-Taliban clusters in the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Province have issued warnings to locals, just as Britain’s Institute for Strategic Studies describes the “global menace” such groups represent.