ISLAMABAD, June 13: Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher on Wednesday met a cross-section of the Pakistani politicians and assured them that the US was pressing Gen Pervez Musharraf to hold free and fair elections in the country, sources told Dawn.
Talking to a gathering at a reception hosted for the leaders of mainstream political parties at the residence of acting US Ambassador Peter Bodde here, Mr Boucher said he had met the chief election commissioner earlier in the day and would examine the fresh voters’ list prepared by the Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday.
According to the sources, Mr Boucher said the US believed that a free and vibrant media was a prerequisite for free and fair elections in Pakistan.
Without elaborating, Mr Boucher said that Gen Musharraf had made some commitments on the issues of free and fair elections, uniform and war on terrorism and the US believed that he would fulfil them. He said the US wanted to have friendship with the people of Pakistan and not with just an individual.
Mr Boucher met the politicians from the government as well as the opposition parties and sought their views on the ongoing political situation in Pakistan and the forthcoming general elections.
Those who attended the reception were former speaker Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani, Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Farhatullah Babar, Sherry Rehman and Naheed Khan of the People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP), Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Mohammad Mehdi of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), Dr Farooq Sattar and Syed Haider Abbas Rizvi of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Liaqat Baloch of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Asfandyar Wali and Zahid Khan of the Awami National Party (ANP), Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party and Mushahid Hussain Syed, S.M. Zafar and Kabir Ali Wasti of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML).
The sources said that former prime minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali was present at the reception and had a one-to-one meeting with Mr Boucher after the other guests had left. The sources said the opposition parties told Mr Boucher that free and fair elections were not possible under Gen Pervez Musharraf. The opposition leaders further said that the return of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif was also a must to ensure free and fair polls.
They also drew the attention of the US official towards the large-scale arrests of political activists in the country.