by RAY FLEMING
WILL tomorrow's elections in Pakistan be “free and fair” as President Musharraf has promised? Unlikely, given that a recorded telephone conversation of Pakistan's Attorney General, Malik Qayyum, telling someone that “They will massively rig to get their own people to win” is in the possession of the US-based Human Rights Watch. Perhaps Mr Qayyum was simply acknowledging that vote-rigging cannot ever be completely controlled in an electorate as large and widespread as Pakistan's, despite a large contingent of international observers. Restrictions on the media have been lifted and they will be monitoring the conduct of the elections closely. Senior judges, deposed last year, remain under house arrest, however. Most neutral observers hope that the Pakistan People's Party (Benazir Bhutto's party before her death) will win the largest share of parliamentary votes, but not so many for an outright victory; a coalition would then be necessary either with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's conservative Pakistan Muslim League or the so-called King's Party (correctly the Pakistan Muslim League-Q) which supports President Musharraf. The process of forming a stable government can last a long time in Pakistan and while it is taking place the country is vulnerable to street demonstrations and worse, especially if there are suspicions of fraud. Musharraf said last week: “No agitation, anarchy or chaos will be acceptable. No one will be allowed to resort to lawlessness in the garb of allegations about rigging in the elections. The elections will be fair, free and transparent and peaceful.” It is to be hoped that he is right.