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Rights Group Releases Recording of Pakistani Official Saying Polls Will be Rigged

Human Rights Watch says it has obtained an audio recording of Pakistan's attorney general saying the country's upcoming parliamentary elections will be rigged.

The U.S.-based rights group released the audio Friday. On the tape, Pakistani Attorney General Malik Qayyum appears to be advising an unidentified person about which political party to approach to become a candidate in the upcoming polls.

In the recording, Qayyum advises the person to seek candidacy in the party that will - in his words - "massively rig" the election to get its own people to win. He does not specify which party.

But in an interview with the French news agency, AFP, Qayyum denied Friday making the comment and called the allegation a conspiracy against Pakistan.

Human Rights Watch said the recording was made during a phone interview with a reporter last November. Qayyum, while still on the phone with the interview, took another call and that conversation was recorded.

Pakistan's opposition parties have vowed to stage mass protests if Monday's parliamentary election is rigged. But Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf Thursday rejected the allegations and warned people against post-election demonstrations.

The U.S. State Department said Thursday the Pakistani people have a right to express their opinions peacefully, regardless of whether their opinions support the Pakistani government and its policies.

Human Rights Watch says Pakistan's election commission has failed to investigate allegations of election irregularities. The organization says the commission has taken virtually no action against widespread harassment of opposition candidates, and has failed to act independently from President Musharraf's administration.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.