Pakistan’s upcoming elections will be a biased exercise and the country’s long-term path to democracy and accountability risks serious derailment if the enforced state of emergency and the suspension of the country’s constitution continue, said Transparency International (TI), calling on the government of Pakistan to restore the constitution, judicial independence, freedom of the press and the right to assembly.
“Holding elections on schedule is a positive development, but fair and transparent campaigns and elections are not possible without the guarantee of fundamental rights“, said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International.
Looking beyond just the upcoming elections, Transparency International noted that judicial independence has been severely compromised by political interference from the executive. “An incapacitated judiciary is no longer able to check government impunity and hold leaders accountable for their actions,” said Pascal Fabie, Regional Director for the Asia Pacific. “With the suspension of the constitution and a muzzled judiciary, the country is more vulnerable to abuse of power because there is no rule of law.”
The current state of emergency in Pakistan has hampered independent reporting, undermining journalists’ ability to report on candidates running for office. Specifically, it is difficult to ensure any accountability on campaign pledges or insight into campaign financing. The ban on public assembly further inhibits transparent, participatory election campaigns.
“All candidates and parties, across the political spectrum and including the opposition, must be open about their record and their agenda, and need to answer questions from the public and the media. This is an essential part of transparent campaigning and is currently impossible under emergency rule,” said Labelle.
Since the attempted dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in March 2007, lawyers and judges in Pakistan have sought to shine a light on judicial integrity and independence in the country. Under the provisional constitutional emergency order, many lawyers, activists and opposition leaders have been detained or are being held under house arrest. Transparency International, the global anti-corruption coalition, with national chapters in almost 100 countries, asks for their immediate release.
Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.
Note to editors:
Pakistan ranked 138 out of 180 countries in TI’s 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index.
In 2007 Transparency International released the landmark Global Corruption Report with a special focus on corruption in the judiciary and has campaigned vigorously against judicial corruption.
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