ISLAMABAD: The US Deputy Secretary of state John Negroponte said that it is necessary to lift emergency and take back restrictions on media and stop actions against political leaders in the country for holding fair and independent elections in Pakistan. He also called on President Pervez Musharraf to end the state of emergency in Pakistan and restart talks with the political opposition.
John Negroponte held talks here with Musharraf and other senior officials including Voice Chief of Army Staff General Ishfaq Pervez Kiyani as well as PPP Chairperson and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Talking to media persons at the US embassy before leaving, Negroponte said it was too early to talk of success or failure in his meetings, acknowledging that the situation had “polarized somewhat” after a week in which Bhutto was twice placed under house arrest.
Negroponte urged Musharraf to lift emergency, release all political detainees, lift curbs on the media and ensure free elections. “We do not think that these kinds of emergency measures are compatible with the kind of environment that is needed to conduct free and fair elections,” he said.
He said Musharraf had reiterated his commitment to step down as army chief before taking the oath of presidential office for a second term, but there was no indication of any date. “The people of Pakistan deserve an opportunity to choose their leaders free from the restrictions that exist under a state of emergency,” Negroponte said, adding he had urged Musharraf to take action “as rapidly as possible.” If these steps are not taken it will undermine the government’s ability to conduct satisfactory elections,” he observed.-SANA