U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says Ms. Rice talked to Mr. Musharraf about Pakistan’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for February 18th:
“She urged President Musharraf to conduct these elections in such a way that the Pakistani people have confidence in the elections. It’s going to be important that candidates have access to media, that they’re able to campaign, that they’re able to express their views. President Musharraf also talked about the importance of having an atmosphere surrounding the elections that is secure so that people felt as though they could freely express themselves and participate in the elections.”
Pakistan’s election commission delayed the elections following the December 27th assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Her murder has increased concerns about security.
Pakistani authorities in Sindh province say they captured a key member of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group Jundullah in a shootout in Karachi. Three other terrorists were killed. Sindh province home secretary Arif Ahmed Khan says the group “intended to attack election rallies and put the whole election process into jeopardy in the province.”
Human rights monitors continue to voice concern over the Pakistani government’s detention or house arrest of political activists, lawyers, and judges, including former Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudry.
The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement calling on Pakistani authorities to end curbs on the media. Those restrictions include a ban on live coverage of demonstrations and on programs that supposedly “defame or ridicule” the head of state or the military in Pakistan.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. is “working very hard with Pakistanis to try and ensure that the elections will be an opportunity for Pakistan to get back on the democratic path and an opportunity for Pakistanis to come together.”