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EU to monitor Pakistan poll
Mujtaba Ali Ahmad in Brussels | January 22, 2008 13:58 IST
The European Union will send a team of observers to monitor Pakistan's February 18 elections, European Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana has said.
Solana, who met President Pervez Musharraf [Images] on Monday, gave a blunt message to the Pakistani leader that any future cooperation will depend on holding of free and fair polls.
"Our message is clear. It is that the elections have to be fair, free and secure. We expect that a government conforming to the will of the people would be in place and continue reforms especially setting up rule of law," Solana said after lunch talks with Musharraf who was in Brussels on the first leg of his four-nation eight-day European trip.
"Our reaction on cooperation and the level of engagement will be in view of the result of the process," he added.
A team of EU election observers will be "on the ground" to monitor the elections, Solana said.
Musharraf told the EU that its election monitors were free to go around in Pakistan and observe the elections and were free to report from anywhere.
Addressing the European Parliament, Musharraf also sought to allay fears of its nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of extremists and criticised the West for questioning its commitment to the fight against terrorism.
"Stop criticising us. We are fighting the war on terror for ourselves, more than for anyone else," Musharraf said.
He asked the EU help in trade and investment, saying that investing in Pakistan's economy would wean the extremists from their violent paths.
EU accounts for 40 per cent of Pakistan's trade and Musharraf said he had sought greater market access for Pakistani goods.
Ruling out rigging of polls, Musharraf said, "Whoever wins, obviously power will be handed over to them."
Promising a transparent probe into the killing of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto [Images], Musharraf blamed the lawyers' agitation and its effects on the writ of law for the fatal terror attack on the former premier.
"That mayhem encouraged the terrorists and they thought that the writ of government was weak and therefore they struck," he said.
Rejecting allegations of the government's involvement in Bhutto's murder, Musharraf told the lawmakers that the joint investigation with Scotland Yard would not be interfered with and the outcomes would be made public.
He also assured the European Parliament that despite the present violence and political instability the nuclear assets of his country were in safe and responsible hands.
"We have a multilayer custodial and command system," Musharraf said.
He said EU could also help resolve conflicts for the purpose of achieving lasting peace at the regional and international levels.
Musharraf had said his visit will allow Pakistan an image makeover by dispelling "misconceptions" about the country.
Recently several European think tanks and human rights groups have urged Musharraf to step down from the presidency because "it could lead to a nightmare of a nuclear-armed, Muslim country descending into civil war."
During his eight-day long tour, Musharraf will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other European leaders. He will also attend the World Economic Forum at Davos.