Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has promised that parliamentary elections will be held by January 9th. Mr. Musharraf also promised to resign as head of the Pakistani military after the Supreme Court validates his election as president. But Mr. Musharraf refuses to give a date for the lifting of emergency rule. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had this comment:
“My reaction is that the positive element here is that elections are going to be held and held very soon, and also that the President [Musharraf] said he was going to take off his uniform. These have both been essential to getting Pakistan back on a democratic path. Obviously, we are also encouraging that the state of emergency has got to be lifted and lifted as soon as possible.”
Ms. Rice said that “the road to democratic development is not smooth and even” but Pakistan has made progress:
“Pakistan is a country that has come a long way from 1999 and the military coup. It’s come a long way from 2001, when it pledged to try and root out extremism. But it’s not a perfect situation, and nobody would suggest it is.”
To help Pakistan hold elections, the U.S. has provided funding for voter education, political party development, computerization of voting lists, training of political poll watchers, and election observers. The U.S.-sponsored independent election-observers are due to arrive in Pakistan this month. The U.S. has been conducting training for Pakistani journalists on election reporting. And Pakistan’s Election Commission is getting U.S. help to publish the country’s voter list on the Internet.
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson said the U.S. goal “is to help Pakistan hold free, fair, and credible elections in which the people can choose their own leaders.” For elections to credible, she said, “opposition political party leaders and their party workers must be released from jail or house arrest,” and “the media must be free to report on events and share their opinions with the public.”