Bangladesh News

Wednesday
Oct 18th
Home arrow News arrow International News arrow Pakistan Elections will be delayed by 1 month
Pakistan Elections will be delayed by 1 month PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 January 2008

A protester chants anti-government slogans in Islamabad,
A protester chants anti-government slogans in Islamabad,
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Elections will be delayed by one month following the turmoil sparked by Benazir Bhutto's assassination, despite opposition threats of street protests unless the crucial vote is held Jan. 8 as originally planned, a top official said Tuesday.

A senior Election Commission official told The Associated Press that the commission has agreed on a new date. He indicated it would not be before the second week of February, but refused to disclose the exact schedule before the formal announcement on Wednesday.

Opposition parties accused Pakistan's government of delaying parliamentary elections to avoid likely defeat and said Wednesday they feared the move could lead to more violence in a country still shaken by Bhutto's assassination.

Many believe Bhutto's party would get a sympathy boost if the vote takes place on time. Bhutto had accused elements in the ruling party of plotting to kill her, a charge it vehemently denies.

"We reject this delay outright," said Sen. Babar Awan from Bhutto's party, the most powerful opposition group. "(President Pervez) Musharraf fears outright defeat. If this election process is jeopardized, they (our followers) may protest again and there is a chance of riots."

The killing of Bhutto, a former prime minister, triggered three days of nationwide riots that killed 58 people and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage. Bhutto's home province of Sindh was especially hard hit and the army was called on the streets. Ten election offices were burned.

"We need at least one month to make arrangements to hold free and fair elections after the damage caused to our offices in the Sindh province," the official said, adding that the commission already had consulted the main political parties about the delay. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the decision.

In addition to logistical problems arising from the destruction caused by the rioting, he said the caretaker governments of all four provinces of Pakistan had suggested the vote not be held during the holy month of Muharram from Jan. 10 through Feb. 8, because they could not guarantee security. Sectarian violence often breaks out between Pakistan's Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

The polls are seen as crucial to restoring democracy after eight years of military rule and following a six-week state of emergency that Musharraf declared in November.

Opposition groups have demanded the elections proceed on time, and Nawaz Sharif, leader of another opposition party, threatened street protests if they were postponed.

Sharif's party accused Musharraf of wanting a delay to allow anger over Bhutto's death to evaporate. "Right now they are the target of public hatred" said Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for the party.

The ruling party was not immediately available for comment.

Britain and the United States also were eager for the vote to take place as scheduled, but have indicated they would accept a slight delay.

Meanwhile, a top aide of Bhutto revealed that on the day she was killed, the opposition leader was planning to give two U.S. lawmakers a 160-page dossier accusing the government of rigging the elections.

Bhutto was killed Thursday evening in a shooting and bombing attack on her vehicle as she left a campaign rally. She had been scheduled to meet hours later with Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.

Sen. Latif Khosa, a lawmaker from Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party, said she had planned to give the lawmakers a report outlining complaints on "pre-poll rigging" by Musharraf's government and the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Khosa said he did not know if Bhutto's killing was linked to her plans to release the document. Officials at the Information Ministry and the Interior Ministry declined comment. The government has denied charges of vote rigging and said it had nothing to do with Bhutto's death.

The dossier outlined several instances of electoral interference, including one case where an officer from the intelligence services sat nearby as an election official rejected nomination papers from opposition candidates, Khosa said. Another official stopped a candidate from filing his nomination in the southwestern Baluchistan province, said Khosa, who wrote the report as head of the party's election team.

"The elections were to be thoroughly rigged, and the king's party was to benefit in the electoral process," he said, referring to the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

The evidence was based on complaints by party candidates and information from sources in the security services, he said.
Despite accusing the government of rigging the vote, Bhutto had rejected calls for a boycott, saying she did not want leave the field open for Musharraf's loyalists.

Since Bhutto's slaying, the government has come under harsh criticism for its security arrangements for her, its claim that an Islamic militant was behind her death and its conclusion that it was the force of the blast and not gunshot wounds that killed her.

Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, has led calls for an international, independent investigation into the attack.
The government rejected this, but said in a statement that its own investigation would be thorough and transparent and "will not shy away from receiving assistance from outside, if needed."

U.S. officials said the United States had quietly joined calls for international experts to join the probe and expected investigators from Britain's Scotland Yard to play a significant role.

As part of the investigation, the government took out newspaper ads offering a $162,000 reward for information about her killers. The ad shows a fuzzy still frame from a video featuring the presumed shooter and bomber seconds before the attack, and a photograph of the bomber's severed head.

Source: AP 

Comments Add New
Write comment
Name:
Email:
  We don't publish your mail. See privacy policy.
Title:
Please input the anti-spam code that you can read in the image.
 
< Prev   Next >