E.U. hails J&K poll, faults that of Pak.
13 October 2002
K K Katyal
NEW DELHI: The European Union has welcomed the completion of the Assembly poll in Jammu and Kashmir but its observation team in Pakistan describes the elections there seriously flawed. A declaration issued in Copenhagen by the Danish presidency on behalf of the European Union 'appreciates that many candidates and voters used their democratic right to elect local representatives despite terrorist violence and intimidation' and 'strongly condemns the many violent incidents which led to the tragic loss of a large number of human lives'. Noting that there was no E.U. observation, it said that a number of diplomatic staff (of the member-countries) followed the process with the assistance of the Indian Government. Taking into account their personal impressions, 'the E.U. welcomes the strenuous efforts of the Indian Election Commission in promoting free and fair elections. We encourage the Indian Government to follow through on its commitment to fully investigate reports of irregularities'. The E.U. hopes that the 'elections will be a starting point for a forward- looking and inclusive dialogue with Kashmiri stakeholders' and that the 'future developments will lead to improvements to the governance and human rights situation in Kashmir'. Then there is a call on 'India and Pakistan to resume, as soon as possible, diplomatic dialogue on all issues that divide them, including that of Kashmir. A lasting settlement to the Kashmir issue can only be achieved through an inclusive dialogue, involving the Kashmiri people.' The E.U., it is pointed out, is 'ready to work with India and Pakistan and with others in the community to defuse the continuing crisis (between them) and to encourage efforts to settle their differences through bilateral dialogue'. In sharp contrast to it are the tone and content of the findings of the E.U. observers' mission in Pakistan, which finds clear evidence of official interference in favour of parties such as the Muslim League (QA) which support Gen. Musharraf. 'Regrettably, in choosing the course of interference, the Pakistan authorities engaged in actions which resulted in serious flaws in the electoral process,' according to the mission. The head of the mission has blamed the Pakistan Election Commission for failing to curb the misuse of state resources by the authorities in favour of certain political parties, particularly the PML(QA). In his view, the conduct of elections did not guarantee the establishment of democracy. The mission, according to its report, found solid evidence to believe that public authorities from the local administration (Nazims) up to the senior level of governance were actively involved in partisan electioneering. It cites several instances in this regard. The Legal Framework order, issued before the elections, in the mission's opinion, institutionalises the role of the military in the governance through the National Security Council, which could subordinate civilian governments to military control. It is seen as having crossed the limits set by the Supreme Court judgment (of May 12, 2000), as it alters the 'salient features of the 1973 Constitution', from a parliamentary to presidential one.