Pakistan polls will be rigged, says veteran journalist

February 17th, 2008 - 10:04 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) Hours before Pakistan goes to crucial elections, a veteran journalist has accused the Pervez Musharraf regime of planning to manipulate polls and said he was threatened he will be killed if he didn’t behave. “I was informed by a minister of the previous regime that I could be killed in a small road accident,” Hamid Mir, a renowned journalist and former anchor of GEO television channel’s talk-show “Capital Talk”, said in a letter to fellow journalists.

“The Musharraf regime has plans to rig the elections,” he alleged, hoping media will not allow “Musharraf to rig the elections openly. Media will fight against the terror and tyranny on Feb 18.”

The 10th general elections in Pakistan will be held Monday.

Hamid Mir said several TV hosts were banned by the Musharraf regime for criticising his government for pressuring the Pakistani media into accepting a new code of conduct for print and electronic journalism. “This new code was drafted just to manipulate elections,” he alleged.

Mir’s allegation came two days after the Human Rights Watch (HRW) made public a telephonic conversation of the government’s top legal officer, Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum with an unidentified caller, in which he said the Musharraf-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) would rig the polls.

In his conversation he advised the unknown caller to get the PML-Q ticket if he wants to win the polls. However, Qayyum denied he made any such statement and said he would file a defamation case against the HRW.

The Musharraf regime allegedly started pressuring the TV channels to accept new media laws in 2006. “In January 2007, some top government officials offered me to join the state-controlled PTV,” Mir said.

He added they tried to bribe him by saying that private TV channels had no future and action will soon be taken against all of them.

“My office was attacked in March 2007 in Islamabad and I was also beaten by the police. Pervez Musharraf apologized to me after that incident, but later on some more incidents took place,” he said, referring to an incident when some policemen attacked the GEO building here.

Musharraf later appeared in Mir’s programme and publicly apologised for the incident.

Mir said that journalists were kidnapped, arrested and tortured many times in different cities.

“Many of us received threats,” he said, adding that he was forced to send his family abroad after these threats. “In September and October 2007, the President House directly tried to silence me,” he said, adding that they offered many allurements to him.

Emergency was imposed Nov 3, 2007 and all private TV channels were banned.

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