(New York, February 12, 2008) – The failure of Pakistan’s Election Commission to act on allegations of irregularities means the electoral machinery for national elections due on February 18, 2008 cannot be considered impartial, Human Rights Watch said today. The structure of the commission, which has wide powers to investigate complaints and take action, also suggests it will not rule fairly in the election.
Since the official election period commenced in November 2007, the Election Commission of Pakistan has ignored allegations of widespread irregularities, including arrests and harassment of opposition candidates and party members, and the misuse of state resources, administration and state machinery to the advantage of candidates backed by President Pervez Musharraf.
“There have been numerous complaints of improper government assistance to the ruling party and illegal interference with opposition activities,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But the election commission has done nothing significant to address these problems, raising serious questions about its impartiality.”
Human Rights Watch said that the Election Commission has taken virtually no action on the widespread harassment of opposition candidates through the registration of police cases against them, police obstruction of opposition rallies, and the removal of lawful opposition banners and billboards.
Human Rights Watch has documented the involvement of the local administration in helping Musharraf-backed candidates, particularly in Punjab and Sindh provinces. For example: Continue reading