I.P.O.-OBSERVERS DOUBT CONCLUSIONS OF COMMONWEALTH OBSERVER GROUP
In a statement issued today in Karachi, the election observers of the Vienna-based International Progress Organization (I.P.O.), Prof. Dr. Hans Koechler (Austria) and Prof. Dr. Tuerkkaya Ataoev (Turkey), questioned yesterday's statement of former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, Head of the Commonwealth Observer Group.
Mr. Fraser had stated on BBC that everyone who wanted to vote was able to do so. The I.P.O.-observers who visited around a dozen polling stations in the Karachi area made it clear that many people were not allowed to vote because of the changing of electoral lists and other irregularities. Therefore, Mr. Fraser's statement is not correct in its generalization. Mr. Fraser is also wrong when he states - as he did on BBC - that everyone could give his vote freely without any pressure. The I.P.O.-observers have documented serious violence and intimidation of voters in several districts of Karachi. People were threatened in regard to the expression of their political choice, two members of one of the electoral parties, the MQM, were murdered. Dozens of serious incidents and irregularities came to the knowledge of the I.P.O.-observers.
The observers of the I.P.O. wondered how Mr. Fraser and his group have collected their informations on which they based their generalized statements. They definitely did not do the job independent observers should do as they seem to have avoided the difficult areas or to have neglected evidence that is available not only to the I.P.O.-observers, but to many Pakistani journalists. The Commonwealth Observer Group should carefully read today's Pakistani newspapers in that regard.
The I.P.O.-observers further pointed to an apparent contradiction between yesterday's statement of President Leghari about a voter turnout in the range of 26 to 27 % and the actual returns later announced by the electoral authorities. It is noteworthy that in many of the districts where the new majority party won, a much higher turnout was reported, whereas the reported turnout in districts where other parties won seems to be much lower. It will be necessary to investigate these facts in order to restore the confidence of the public and of the international community in the electoral process in Pakistan.
For more details see the Report of the I.P.O. Observer Mission on Pakistani Elections 1997 .