- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008

Worried about Pakistan

Members of Congress are nervous about elections today in Pakistan because they do not trust President Pervez Musharraf to ensure free and fair balloting.

Rep. Steve Israel, a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on state and foreign operations, sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to complain that the “United States is not doing enough to prevent [Mr. Musharraf] from manipulating the upcoming … election.”

The New York Democrat added: “Without a credible electoral process, instability in Pakistan will continue, and likely worsen, to the detriment of the people of Pakistan and U.S. national interests.

“We need to do everything we can to ensure the elections are fair, that media can work without restriction and that the elections are not further postponed.”

Mr. Israel, along with 11 other House members who signed his letter, said the “lack of an independent judiciary” undermines Pakistan’s Election Commission because it is headed by a former judge who was hand-picked by Mr. Musharraf and includes High Court judges from each of Pakistan’s provinces.

“As these judges all now serve at the pleasure of President Musharraf, it is difficult to see how the people of Pakistan can have any faith that the institutional supervision of the upcoming elections will be free and fair,” the letter said.

Pakistani Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani said during a visit to The Washington Times last month that election officials have installed several safeguards and reforms — including computerized voter lists, tamper-proof ballots and early publication of all polling stations — to ensure that today’s vote “will [be] the best-run election in our history.”

“I can guarantee you that anyone who wins in the election in Pakistan will be happy,” he said, but “I can also guarantee that anybody who loses will declare it was rigged.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


• Defense ministers Lazar Elenovski of Macedonia, Fatmir Mediu of Albania and Branko Vukelic of Croatia. They meet with the Atlantic Council of the United States to advocate NATO membership for their countries.


Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of Kashmir’s All Parties Hurriyet Conference, who joins Pakistani Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani and Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen in a panel discussion sponsored by the Kashmiri American Council.

Edward Lucas, deputy foreign editor of the Economist magazine of Britain. He testifies on current events in Russia at a 10 a.m. hearing of the congressional Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Aart Jan de Geus, deputy secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Bernard Bigot of the French Atomic Energy Commission; Philippe Serain of the French highway maintenance firm Group of Autoroutes Paris-Rhin-Rhone; Anders Hultin of the Swedish educational institution Kunskapsskolan; and Simon Steen of the Dutch private school Verenigde Bijzondere Scholen. They address the American Enterprise Institute on reforms in “old Europe.”


Hilaire Kamga, president of the New Rights of Man Cameroon, who addresses the Africa Program at the National Endowment for Democracy on efforts to promote peace and democracy in his Central African country.

Roland Rich of Australia, director of the U.N. Democracy Fund, who addresses the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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