US wants fair elections in Pak; concerned for detained leaders

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Islamabad, Nov 10 (UNI) The United States has urged Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to restore democracy in the Islamic nation ''as quickly as possible''.

It also said the US remained committed to supporting free, fair and credible elections in Pakistan.

''We also expect President Musharraf to step down as Army Chief and begin his promised transition to civilian democratic rule,'' The Nation newspaper today quoted US Counsel General Bryan D Hunt as saying in Lahore following his meeting with Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Chairperson Asma Jehangir.

Ms Jehangir is currently under house-arrest and her Gulberg residence has been declared as sub-jail by the authorities.

The US Counsel General, however, said the US welcomed President Musharraf's statement that he would hold elections by February 15, and maintained that it was important for the Pakistani people to hear that message.

Asked if Pakistan government had given any assurance to the US regarding time frame for coming elections, Mr Hunt said President Musharraf had not given any particular message or assurance to the US.

Mr Hunt, later, said the US would send its observers to monitor election process in Pakistan.

''As of November 20, we plan to have our long-term independent election observers on the ground,'' he said, adding that the last 80,000 of the 430,000 transparent ballot boxes, the US and Japan had purchased will be delivered to Pakistan by December 9 this year.

Mr Hunt expressed the US concern over detention of political workers, leaders and human rights activists in Pakistan, and urged their early release.

''Our goal is to help Pakistan in holding free, fair and credible elections in which the people can choose their own leaders. But for elections to be credible, opposition political party leaders and their party workers must be released from jail or house arrest,'' he maintained.

The US official also voiced his concern over curbs on media in Pakistan, saying there was no concept of democracy without free and independent media.

''The media must be free to report on events and share their opinions with public,'' the US Counsel General said.

When asked that the US had not yet come up with a clear-cut stance on reinstatement of the deposed judges of the superior judiciary in Pakistan, Mr Hunt said the US was not giving mix reaction on emergency.

''Our stance on imposition of emergency in Pakistan is very clear. The real issue is democracy, and we support democracy, rule of law and free media in Pakistan,'' he affirmed.

Mr Hunt also said Pakistan had active and vibrant leadership including Benazir Bhutto and ''we do hope that opposition and other political parties would be able to run their election campaign and people would be able to elect their leadership through elections''.

UNI

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