EU urges Pakistan to carry out electoral reforms
(dpa) - European Union on Friday impressed upon Pakistan the need to undertake major reforms on a priority basis to bring its electoral process in line with international standards.
Quoting an old Elvis Presley song "Now or Never," the head of the EU Election Observation Mission and European Parliament member, Michael Gahler, told reporters in Karachi that "if corrective measures were not taken in the problematic areas identified after the February 18 elections, there was a serious risk of electoral problems in future."
Gahler's mission released a 70-page report immediately after the polls, pointing out that a level playing field was not provided to opposition candidates and state resources were misused in favour of former ruling party candidates.
He asked Pakistan to increase the electoral participation of women which presently stands at around 44 per cent, though women are in a majority in the country. Pakistan has slightly over 60 million registered voters, according to the state-owned National Database Registration Authority (NADRA).
An improvement in the electoral process would substantially increase Pakistan's political profile in the eyes of the European Union, Gahler added.
The EU mission defended the part of its report that criticized the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a staunch supporter of military dictator turned civilian President Pervez Musharraf.
"We have taken note that MQM has a reputation of use of force and use of violence, (and) the reputation prevails," Gahler said, adding the MQM was not happy with some findings and wordings and apparently there was some confusion.
The MQM recently made headlines for violence in Karachi on April 9 when seven lawyers were burnt alive in their downtown chambers, apparently in an effort to crush the anti-Musharraf movement by attorneys across the country.
However, Gahler said the MQM was an effective political party and enjoyed common ground with other national political parties. The party has 25 seats in the lower house of parliament.