Islamabad: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf faces a big credibility test with just two days to go before elections.
A day after he promised to make the elections free, fair and transparent, the US-based Human Rights Watch claimed it had caught Pakistan's Attorney General Malik Qayyum on tape saying that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be ‘massively rigged’.
"Leave Nawaz Sharif... I think Nawaz Sharif will not take part in the election... If he does take part, he will be in trouble. If Benazir takes part, she too will be in trouble (pause)... They will massively rig to get their own people to win. If you can get a ticket from these guys, take it (pause)... If Nawaz Sharif does not return himself, then Nawaz Sharif has some advantage. If he comes himself, even if after the elections rather than before…yes…" the voice on the tape, purported to be that of Malik Qayyum, says.
Political parties in Pakistan reacted sharply to the revelation, but there was no reaction or denial from the Musharraf administration so far.
For sometime now, there had been speculation that Musharraf will try to rig the polls in order to get his own people elected to power. The secret tape revelation now seems to confirm these suspicions.
If true, the audiotape also indicates that the plans to rig the elections were going on behind the scene at least two months prior to the elections. The telephonic talk is in Urdu and it was taped secretly on November 15, 2007.
Musharraf has been under pressure in these elections as political observers both within and outside Pakistan have projected the polls as a referendum on him. A debacle for the pro-Musharraf parties may indicate the declining popularity for the Pakistan President.
The revelation by Human Rights Watch came as a body blow for Musharraf as Qayyum was also the man he had handpicked to defend himself against sacked Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftakar Muhammad Choudhary. Earlier, Qayyum had to step down as a judge in 2001 after charges of misconduct.
Former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League chief Nawaz Sharif claimed Musharraf's attempt to rig the elections has already begun. Speaking exclusive to CNN-IBN's Suhasini Haider, Sharif said: "Mushrraf is all set to rig the elections. The rigging process has already started. My papers were rejected not by the Election Commission, but by Mushrraf himself," he alleged.
Benazir Bhutto's husband and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari has also expressed fear of chaos ahead of the polls.
"I fear more attacks. I fear there are elements in and outside the country who are doing this. There are people in the system who want this chaos. People thrive on this. It's a war industry. I think that monster has come in our show and we have to send him back to hell," he said.