No EU poll observers for Pak`s restive tribal belt
Islamabad: European Union monitors will not observe upcoming polls in Pakistan`s most restive regions including the Taliban-infested northwest tribal zone because of security fears, officials said Monday.
None of the EU`s 110 observers will be posted in the tribal areas or the southwestern province of Baluchistan, which is plagued by Islamist, separatist and sectarian violence, to keep watch on the May 11 general election.
But the head of the EU monitoring mission said he was confident his team would still be able to work effectively to observe the landmark polls, which will mark the first democratic transition of power in Pakistan`s history.
There are more than five million registered voters in Baluchistan and the seven tribal districts which border Afghanistan and are a hideout for Taliban and al Qaeda linked extremists.
The EU judged it too dangerous to send any of its observers, drawn from the bloc`s 26 member states plus Norway, Switzerland and Canada, but election mission chief Michael Gahler said they would still be able to get a good sample nationally.
"For us to judge a process we need a sample but we do not need to be present in each and every constituency or even region," Gahler told reporters.
EU observers will monitor 193 out of the 272 constituencies, Gahler said.
"We are in constant contact with local observation groups. Of course in our report we only take information that we have assessed with our own eyes and ears but that doesn`t exclude that we take note of what others who are on the ground report."
This is the third Pakistani election to be monitored by the EU, with the 2008 poll won by the Pakistan People`s Party (PPP) on a wave of sympathy after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Security concerns also prevented the EU mission from sending staff to the tribal areas in 2008.
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