London, Jan 26 : Britain's Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Lord Malloch-Brown has said that the Government is pressing Pakistan to adopt various measures with a view to ensure February 18 elections are free and fair.
In addition, the UK will provide a number of election observers. DfID has also committed to give 3.5 million pounds for strengthening the capacity of the Election Commission of Pakistan, for educating voters and supporting independent monitoring.
Malloch-Brown was answering to a question fielded by Lord Meghnad Desai at the House of Lords that what assistance UK is offering to the Pakistan Government to ensure a free and fair election on February18.
Lord Avebury asked whether Pakistan has invited the Commonwealth to send observers and, if so, could they make a preliminary assessment of the factors behind the preparations for the elections, including the persons nominated to the electoral commission to make sure that a level playing field exists?
Malloch-Brown said Pakistan has made it clear that they are currently suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth, so they do not wish to have Commonwealth observers in the country in advance of the elections.
At this juncture Lord Ahmed asked could the minister recall November 3, 2007, when Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency? He had then said that it was because of international terrorism and the threat of terrorism.
How can Her Majesty's Government trust General Pervez Musharraf to hold free and fair elections? Finally, with his extensive knowledge of the UN, will the Minister advise him next week on a safe and a peaceful exit strategy from Pakistan?
Lord Malloch-Brown said that the events in November 2007 were very disappointing and a great setback for the conduct of free and fair elections in Pakistan, as was the later and tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
"Nevertheless, we have concerns, which is why we have been very clear in all dealings with Pakistan that these elections must be seen by the people of that country as fair and credible. This Monday, when the Prime Minister meets President Musharraf at Davos, he will repeat that message", he added.