ISLAMABAD, July 28: The United States Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday hoped that the October elections in Pakistan would be held on free and fair basis and all the parties would be allowed to participate.

“We expect that these elections would be free and fair and all the political parties would participate,” Mr Powell told a press conference after his talks with President Pervez Musharraf.

The internal political situation of Pakistan and the proposed constitutional amendments, Musharraf’s government intended to make before elections also figured prominently in the talks.

Mr Powell said the constitutional amendments were discussed at length in his talks. Musharraf, he added, explained the rationale of these amendments.

On a direct question whether former prime minister Benazir Bhutto would be allowed to return and participate in the elections, Mr Powell avoided a straight reply.

“With respect to who might or might not participate in the upcoming elections, I do not have a point of view,” he said.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inamul Haq on the question of constitutional amendment interjected saying that these proposals were not final.

He pointed out that the president was consulting all the political parties and in the light of these consultation the government would make an assessment about changes to be made in the constitution.

He explained that these amendments were designed to strengthen the democracy and to ensure that martial laws would not be resorted to in future.

no more concessions: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he did not need to offer any more concessions to India to resolve a dangerous standoff with India over Kashmir, before entering talks with top US envoy Colin Powell here on Sunday, adds AFP.

“I don’t have to do anything because we’ve already done it,” Musharraf told reporters during a photo session with the visiting US Secretary of State at the Chief Executive’s Office.

He rejected Indian charges Pakistan-based Muslim rebels were still crossing the border in disputed Kashmir to launch attacks in the Indian-controlled zone of the Himalayan region.

“It is already stopped in the past. It is not taking place and whatever the Indian side is saying is absolutely baseless,” Musharraf said. Musharraf reiterated Pakistan’s insistence that India agree to dialogue to find an end to the stand-off.

“Our stand is very, very clear. We need to start a dialogue on Kashmir and all of the issues,” Musharraf said.

“That’s what we want to see. The reciprocation and response (we want) from them is to initiate a dialogue on Kashmir.”

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