U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson said the United States wants to see “free, fair, and credible elections” in Pakistan. As for the outcome of those elections, Ambassador Patterson said the U.S. position is one of complete neutrality.
The U.S. welcomes President Pervez Musharraf’s promise to lift the state of emergency by December 16th, but, more needs to be done to allow free elections. “For elections to be credible, detained members of political parties and civil society must be released,” Ambassador Patterson said. She expressed U.S. concern over the continued detention of Pakistani political leaders, activists, and jurists. These include Aitzaz Ahsan (eh-teh-ZAHZ eh-sahn), president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association. “Institutions of civil society," she said, "are fundamental to a thriving democracy."
In a meeting with the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and former prime minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Ambassador Patterson called for “the candidates and the people to fully participate” in Pakistan’s parliamentary elections scheduled for January 8th, 2008.
Ambassador Patterson called on Pakistani authorities “to quickly lift the remaining curbs on media and permit broadcasters to resume their programming.” “The media,” she said, “must be free to report on events and share their opinions with the public.” Speaking to a gathering of South Asian journalists, Ms. Patterson said journalists have a right to report and comment without interference from government. But with that right comes the responsibility to maintain “the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that during the run-up to the parliamentary elections it is important that “those who want to peacefully participate in the Pakistani political process are able to do so, that they have access to free and independent media, that free and independent media be able to operate, that there are provisions made for election observers so that they can move freely throughout the country to observe the election – all the types of things that we would expect in any election taking place around the globe.”