The United States says the people of Pakistan have the right to protest peacefully, following a warning from President Pervez Musharraf against post-election demonstrations.
A State Department spokesman (Sean McCormack) said Thursday that people have the right to express their opinions peacefully, regardless of whether those opinions are supportive of the Pakistani government and its policies.
During an election rally Thursday (in the eastern city of Faisalabad), the widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari, criticized Mr. Musharraf and urged people to protest any semblance of vote-rigging by the government. Speaking earlier, Mr. Musharraf denied opposition allegations of election rigging, saying Monday's balloting will be free and fair. The Pakistani president said opponents will not be allowed to mount street protests to contest the election results. Mr. Musharraf also dismissed recent polls showing his ruling party winning marginal support in Monday's election. He warned pollsters against destabilizing the country.