Pakistan president announces December 16 date but ex-PM Sharif calls for polls boycott.
“We are saying that we will take part in elections under protest, but we will also leave the door open [to talks on a boycott].”
“I am getting conflicting signals from Nawaz Sharif and Qazi Hussain Ahmad about [an] election boycott as they have filed nomination papers and, if someone does that, it means he is taking part in election,” Bhutto told a press conference in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Ahmad is the chief of the Islamist alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which is also divided over the boycott issue.
“[But] Moderate and democratic forces must work together. I have signed a charter of democracy with Nawaz Sharif and we are committed to [it],” she said.
Election candidates will compete for 272 seats in the National Assembly and 577 in provincial assemblies constituencies, an election commission spokesman said, adding that the commission will meet Monday to review electoral procedures.
Bhutto made the comments on Sunday, after launching the election campaign of her Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) the day before.
She said she had decided to take part in elections despite fears they would be rigged by the government.
“They [the government] have a plan to rig the elections. They have created improvised or ghost polling stations and also have a plan to steal thousands of ballot papers a night before election and give them to their candidates,” she said.
She accused the government of making “bulk” transfers of key officials ahead of the elections and said mayors from the former government were misusing public funds.
“The government should suspend all mayors and cancel transfers [of officials],” she added.
Bhutto said the election commission had not given her the list of voters in her constituency and was demanding 30 million rupees (US$500,000) to do so.
“This is unfair and many parties cannot pay such a huge amount for the voters’ list,” she said.
The election commission spokesman said the filing of nomination papers had been delayed in about 18 constituencies of the North Western Frontier Province and tribal areas bordering Afghanistan following recent unrest.
Pakistan’s military launched a massive operation in November against fighters loyal to Maulana Fazlullah, a pro-Taliban cleric, in the Swat valley and Shangla districts, where more than 250 fighters have been killed.
Bhutto warned on Sunday that rising tension in tribal areas of Pakistan could result in the “Balkanisation” of the region, and that foreign troops may intervene if Pakistan does not assert its control over these areas.
Musharraf imposed emergency rule on November 3 and suspended the constitution by issuing his own provincial constitutional order as chief of army staff.
He was sworn in for a second term as president on Thursday after standing down as army chief, and has said he will lift emergency rule by December 16.