Pakistan Elections `Seriously Flawed' ; Islamist Advance: Hardline Anti-American Alliance Takes Control of Key Provinces on Border with Afghanistan
Reeves, Phil, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
Observers from the European Union yesterday blamed Pakistan's government for "serious flaws" in its general election, and questioned claims by the military President, Pervez Musharraf, to be returning the country to a civilian democracy.
The criticism came as policy makers from as far afield as Delhi and Washington were scrutinising the election's startling side effect - the strong gains made by a hardline, anti-American Islamic alliance, the Muthahida Majlis- e-Amal (MMA).
In a preliminary report, the EU observers said that the authorities in Pakistan had misused government resources to favour certain political parties, in particular the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam, or PML (QA). Known in Pakistan as the "King's Party" because it has the support of General Musharraf and the army, it won the largest number of seats but unexpectedly failed to secure a majority.
The EU observers criticised the government's moves to limit the power of the new legislature, its bar on opposition candidates and its use of government resources to help pro-Musharraf candidates. The same election was described by the US State Department on Friday as "an important milestone in the transition to democracy".
In the months before the poll, General Musharraf accorded himself the power to sack the Prime Minister and dissolve the legislature.
Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission has accused the government officials of "blatantly coercing" voters into supporting pro-Musharraf candidates. And former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who were barred from running, have been scathing. …