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'US must ensure Pak restores democracy'

Last updated on: November 27, 2005 19:48 IST

A global think-tank has asked the United States and other nations to make it clear to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf that they will withdraw support if he did not restore democracy.

Brussels-based International Crisis Group cited the rigged local election and said there was little faith that Musharraf will restore democracy and that failure to do so will only provide political space to jihadi outfits.

'Following Pakistan's recently rigged local elections, the US and others must make clear they will withdraw support for the regime unless it takes genuine steps to restore civilian rule,' the ICG said in its latest report.

The ICG, which has several heads of state, presidents and prime ministers on its Board, said the military regime 'distorted its own devolution plan through manipulated polls in order to ensure that its supporters won, to weaken further the mainstream opposition parties and to set the stage for maintaining control of Parliament and the Presidency in 2007 and beyond', in a report titled Pakistan's Local Polls: Shoring Up Military Rule.

Maintaining that the Musharraf regime rigged local elections in August and October 2005 to weaken further the mainstream opposition, it said the devolution process was 'a political project to maintain military power, something further revealed by the extent of rigging of the local polls'.

It said the absence of representative rule, ethno-regional and political disaffection would continue to pose serious risks to the country's economic development and stability.

'The election process risks worsening relations between the central government and the four federal provinces'.

It has already led to a low-level insurgency in Balochistan and revived ethnic violence in Karachi, the report said.

'These elections have left political parties weakened and divided, have reduced political participation by women and worsened local clan and ethnic rivalries. Limiting the political space for secular democratic parties has always boosted the position of extremist and religious groups in Pakistan,' the ICG report said.

Asking the United States and other nations to make clear they would withdraw support for the Musharraf regime if it did not take steps to restore democracy, the ICG said 'the rigging of the local elections and the lack of independence of the Election Commission mean that there can be little faith that Musharraf will live up to promises to return Pakistan to democracy and allow the next parliamentary polls to be free and fair'.

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