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'The government has rigged the poll'

Last updated on: February 18, 2008 14:29 IST

Mohammad Tahseen, monitor, Pakistan Coalition for Free and Fair Democratic Election, spoke exclusively to rediff.com on telephone from Gawal Mandi, a polling booth in Lahore.

"It is around 12.30 pm in Lahore. I am sitting at polling booth number NA 123 of Doaba Street which is in the Gawal Mandi constituency of Lahore. It is considered quite a volatile constituency. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif once represented it. So far, voting is not bad. Our city is quiet but in Punjab we have heard about one or two violent incidents. Last night, a political activist of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was murdered. But we found out that he was killed due to a family feud under the pretext of the election. Traditionally, we Lahorians vote only after having our lunch. So far, in this polling booth around 100 people have voted and that is quite a good rate."

"The most important thing about Lahore is that people want to vote. Lahorians are vote-hungry! I expect people to come out and vote so that President (Pervez) Musharraf can become history. We don't want Musharraf's rule in Pakistan.

In Punjab, there is an undeclared alliance between the Pakistan People's Party and the PML-N. We can see that voters are aware of it. For the first time, we can see that workers and activists of both parties are sitting shoulder to shoulder and chatting freely. The traditional rivals never shared a good chemistry before. In general, Punjab is feeling secure."

"Although the election process is on and we are voting, none of us are happy. Musharraf has done pre-poll rigging and we have enough proof to nail his government. We have video footage of police vans carrying flags of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) (a party backed by Musharraf), we have evidence of government and police vehicles using stickers of the PML-Q. The pre-poll rigging was done so openly that there is no secret about it.

"Let me say clearly that these are not free and fair polls. But we are hoping that as the day ends we will have a larger turnout to offset the government's pre-poll rigging. More the voting less the effect of the rigging. We are still hoping that people will vote in big numbers to bring in a democratic government. The end of Musharraf should begin today. My only fear, and a real fear, is that if PPP loses in Sindh then it will be on fire. People will not believe in this rigged election if they are not allowed to have their choice of government."

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi