Pakistanis should feel polls are free and fair, Rice tells Musharraf

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Washington, Feb.1 : The people of Pakistan should feel and have confidence that the general elections to be held on February 18 are held in an impartial, free and fair manner, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is believed to have told President Pervez Musharraf, when they met in Davos recently.

Confirming that a meeting had taken place between Rice and Musharraf on the sidelines of this year's World Economic Forum, the U.S. State Department said that Rice told Musharraf to "conduct these elections in such a way that the Pakistani people have confidence in the elections because it is "going to be important that candidates have access to media, that they're able to campaign, that they're able to express their views".

The Daily Times quoted Sean McCormack, the spokesman of the department, as saying that both Rice and Musharraf also "talked a lot about the internal situation in Pakistan and a little bit about the US-Pakistan efforts on counterterrorism."

When reminded of Richard Boucher's testimony in Congress on Tuesday suggesting that the US had accepted the February 18 elections as being flawed, McCormack replied that the fairness of an election could be judged by the "level of confidence that the population has in the election that the result reflects the will of the people".

He added that no election anywhere, including the US, can be perfect.

"What finally matters in the context of Pakistan's political development is that the people have confidence in this election, and that confidence will be based on a variety of different factors and we shall see how the election turns out," he said.

Acknowledging that Pakistan is passing through a very difficult period in their political history, McCormack said that Washington retains the hope that Islamabad "can get back on that road that we had seen it on previously, one of increasing political and economic reforms and increasing political and economic freedoms."

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