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Pakistan official disputes tape

  • Story Highlights
  • Pakistan's attorney general says Monday's election will be "massively rigged"
  • Malik Qayyum's comments caught on tape acquired by Human Rights Watch
  • Qayyum caught off-guard while in middle of telephone interview with journalist
  • His office claims conversation fabricated to malign the government
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(CNN) -- Pakistan's attorney general said that Monday's parliamentary election will be "massively rigged," according to what Human Rights Watch says is an audio recording it obtained.

Attorney General Malik Qayyum's office denies he said that Monday's elections would be "massively rigged."

The humanitarian watchdog, which is one of many voices to raise questions about the fairness of the electoral process in Pakistan, released a report and an audiotape that it says contains the voice of Attorney General Malik Qayyum.

The attorney general's office swiftly issued a stiff denial, saying the conversation "had been clearly fabricated and cannot be denounced and renounced in stronger words."

Human Rights Watch said Qayyum was "advising an unidentified person on what political party the person should approach to become a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary election" when he made the remark in November more than a month before opposition candidate Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

The recording -- translated into English from Punjabi -- makes reference to opposition politicians Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, and Bhutto, the late former prime minister who was assassinated in Rawalpindi on December 27. The election was to be held in early January but was postponed to Monday after Bhutto was killed.

The recording says:

"Leave Nawaz Sharif (pause)....I think Nawaz Sharif will not take part in the election (pause).... If he does take part, he will be in trouble. If Benazir takes part she too will be in trouble (pause)... They will massively rig to get their own people to win. If you can get a ticket from these guys, take it (pause).... If Nawaz Sharif does not return himself, then Nawaz Sharif has some advantage. If he comes himself, even if after the elections rather than before ... yes."Video Watch how the elections are shaping up »

CNN's translation of the recording basically matches the one posted by Human Rights Watch, which said the recording was made on November 21 during a phone interview "with a member of the media."

"Qayyum, while still on the phone interview, took a call on another telephone and his side of that conversation was recorded," the group said.

In reaction to Human Rights Watch, the attorney general's office said Qayyum has "no nexus with the holding of elections nor would he be privy to any special election-related information." It says the attorney general's office doesn't partake in politics and doesn't ask people to switch affiliations. It also wonders why the "so-called journalist who had these manufactured tapes in November" didn't release them right away.

"The news item and the so-called fabricated conversation is just simply part of a malicious campaign to malign the government," Qayyum's office said.


Human Rights Watch said Qayyum is a close associate of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and headed a two-judge panel that convicted Bhutto and her husband in a corruption case, and the Supreme Court eventually said that the convictions were "politically motivated."

HRW told CNN the recording wasn't released earlier because it was being authenticated. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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