=> ISLAMABAD, Feb 14: The Centre for Media and Democr -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

=> ISLAMABAD, Feb 14: The Centre for Media and Democr

ISLAMABAD, Feb 14: The Centre for Media and Democracy (CMD) has expressed concerns over violence in different parts of the country prior to the elections and called for immediate measures to address the law and order situation.

Speaking at a press conference here on Thursday, Thomas George Houlahamn, who leads a 30-member delegation of the US-based Centre for Security and Science (CSS), expressed satisfaction over the steps taken by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for conducting free, fair and transparent elections on February 18 and hoped that reforms in the electoral procedures would ensure the credibility of polls.

“We would go to every nook and corner of the country to observe the polls and the CMD International Observer Mission will give its final report by next week,” Mr Houlahamn said.

He said the international community was concerned about the credibility of the election and the observers were here to ensure that the ‘people of Pakistan exercise their right to vote’.

He said the centre would hold meetings with all political parties and share the findings of its fact-finding missions with the ECP. He said the observers were concerned that almost all contestants had been violating the ECP’s code of conduct. He urged the authorities concerned to redress the grievances of political parties and candidates.

He said the authorities had told observers that all necessary measures had been taken to make the election process credible. He welcomed the ECPÂ’s initiative to announce poll results by the returning officer and use of transparent ballot boxes.

Mr Houlahamn said the observer group was in the country to ensure that the electoral process was conducted fairly and trust-worthy results were produced.

About pre-poll surveys conducted by some international NGOs, he said that such polls don’t necessarily give a ‘true picture’ or reflect the will of people. He said that only the polling day could decide the winning and losing parties.

Marian Lucas, a Dutch civil society activist, said the Pakistani people were cognizant of their rights and issues. She said the formation of separate international and national observers groups would facilitate the CMD in coming up with a comprehensive report of the polls.

Sabra Bano, an expert on gender issues, said that she would assess the participation of women and minorities in the polls. The CSS delegation is part of the CMD’s election monitoring programme.

Source: Dawn
Date:2/15/2008