Washington, Feb.28 : Democracy International, which sent a 38-member election observer delegation to Pakistan at the request of the US State Department to monitor the February 18 elections, has given a clean bill of health, despite shortfalls, to the national electoral exercise.
At a discussion held at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, the Daily Times quoted a senior Democracy International official, as saying that there was no systematic attempt at manipulation of results, as some had feared.
"To date, there appears to be broad acceptance of the results. ... However, the serious assault on Pakistan's constitutional order and fundamental flaws in the pre-election environment prevented the election from meeting international standards and must be addressed if progress towards a democratic Pakistan is to continue," he added.
The Democracy International official was also critical of the Election Commission for having redone the voters' lists, on the basis of those drawn up in 2002, whereas the revised lists should have been based on the national identity card database.
He said Democracy International would issue its full report in April.
Marvin Weinbaum, one of the observers sent out by Democracy International, Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi and Hassan Abbas, a former Pakistani police official who is now a scholar at Harvard also participated in the discussion.
Weinbaum called the election historic and likened it in terms of public enthusiasm to the 1970 elections.
The sympathy vote for the PPP was also a factor in producing the results that the electoral exercise did. Bread and butter issues also figured at large. He said the US wanted the "heat off Musharraf", but the results "burnt him severely".
He pointed out that the US had failed to appreciate the transition, which was taking place in Pakistan.
"The process of change is beyond Musharraf's control and if Washington continues to see Musharraf as 'indispensable', it will be disappointed because the Pakistani leader is becoming 'increasingly irrelevant'," Weinbaum said.
He said Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari is an "unknown" but he is "grooming himself to become prime minister". PPP Vice President Makhdoom Amin Faheem was a party loyalist who was lacking in charisma, he said.
Eventually, he predicted, Zardari would make a "grab for power".
Prof Rizvi said, "The elections are a major success for democratic forces. The decline of Islamist parties had brought the situation in Pakistan back to normal, although they would still play a role as a pressure group."
Either President Musharraf would go or the entire system would come crashing down. Given the style of governance to which the president had become used to, he would find it hard to work with the elected government, Rizvi felt, adding that the ideal thing would be for President Musharraf to resign.
Abbas told the meeting that the success of the ruling party in Balochistan was 'suspect'. He said he could not see how the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) could have won in Balochistan, of all places, when it had lost everywhere else.