Zardari seeks guarantee from Bush for free elections in Pak

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New York, Feb 7 : Pakistan People's Party co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has appealed to US President George W Bush and congressional leaders to press Pakistan for a free and fair election that the international community would find acceptable.

"Those standards would include an election administered by a neutral caretaker government and independent Election Commission -- one monitored by trained international observers with the authority to conduct exit polls to check on the government's count, and to make unannounced visits to any polling place," Zardari said.

In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Zardari stressed that "an independent judiciary must be instituted through a bipartisan process. And the restrictions that smother the Pakistani media must be lifted."

"I am not asking anyone to guarantee an outcome; neither did my wife. But the Pakistan People's Party is asking the world to guarantee a free and open process," he said.

Zardari stressed that if the election is free and fair, we believe that our party will be able to establish a broad-based government with other democratic parties to promote national unity and reconciliation.

Commenting on terrorist attacks in the country, he said: "Instead of trying to mobilise the people to confront and contain terrorism, Musharraf is spending his time and energy trying to cling to power and rig the February 18 elections."

"In 2002, Musharraf rigged parliamentary elections, despite the presence of teams of international observers, who did not hesitate to condemn the fraud," the Dawn quoted him, as saying.

Zardari referred to US-based NGOs -- the National Democratic Institute that had documented massive pre-election rigging, and the International Republican Institute was sufficiently appalled by the election environment that it pulled out of the country.

ANI

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