The upcoming elections in Pakistan will be massively rigged, Pakistan's Attorney General Malik Qayyum has been quoted as saying.
In an audio recording obtained by Human Rights Watch, General Qayyum appeared to be advising an unidentified person on what political party the person should approach to become a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary election, now scheduled for February 18, 2008.
According to Human Rights Watch, the recording was made during a phone interview with a member of the media on November 21, 2007. Qayyum, while still on the phone interview, took a call on another telephone and his side of that conversation was recorded.
The recording was made the day after Pakistan's Election Commission announced the schedule for polls.
The election was originally planned for January 8, but had to be postponed after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
An English translation of the recording, which is in Urdu and Punjabi, follows:
"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... They will massively rig to get their own people to win. If you can get a ticket from these guys, take it... If Nawaz Sharif does not return himself, then Nawaz Sharif has some advantage "
HRW says that fears of rigging have been a major issue in the current election campaign.
Since the official election period commenced in November 2007, there have been numerous allegations of irregularities, including arrests and harassment of opposition candidates and party members. There are also allegations that state resources, administration and state machinery are being used to the advantage of candidates backed by President Pervez Musharraf.
Malik Qayyum is a former judge who resigned from the Lahore High Court bench in 2001 amid charges of misconduct. On April 15, 1999, a two-judge panel of the Lahore High Court headed by Qayyum had convicted Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari in a corruption case. They were sentenced to five years in prison, fined $8.6 million each, disqualified as members of Parliament for five years, and forced to forfeit their property. The impending verdict led Bhutto to go into exile in March 1999.
In February 2001, the Sunday Times, a British newspaper, published a report based on transcripts of 32 audio tapes, which revealed that Qayyum convicted Bhutto and Zardari for political reasons. The transcripts of the recordings reproduced by the newspaper showed that Qayyum asked then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's anti-corruption chief, Saifur Rehman, for advice on the sentence: "Now you tell me how much punishment do you want me to give her?"
Qayyum was appointed attorney general of Pakistan by Musharraf in August 2007.