Pakistan to fix new poll date

Election commission holds meeting to decide whether to postpone January 8 vote.

    Government buildings were set on fire in the unrest that followed Benazir Bhutto's death [AFP]

    Nearly 60 people died in the post-assassination violence. While the situation has now calmed, it remains tense and markets are gripped by fears of capital flight if security worsens.
    Poll 'impossible'
    On Tuesday, the election commission said that it appears it would be "impossible" to hold parliamentary elections on January 8.
    Kanwar Dilshad, a commission official, said it had agreed "in principle" for the vote to be delayed after offices and records were burnt.
    Sohail Rahman, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, said on Wednesday quoting election commission sources that the election will probably be held on February 26 -27.
    Both Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the party led by Nawaz Sharif have demanded that the election go ahead as planned.
    Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's husband who is now co-chairman of her party along with their 19-year old son, Bilawal, issued a joint statement on Tuesday calling for the elections to be held on January 8 as planned.
    "It is up to the people of Pakistan to choose their future, and the time is now," it said.
    "The January 8th elections must proceed as scheduled. This will not only be a tribute to the memory of Benazir Bhutto, but even more important, a reaffirmation of the cause of democracy for which she died."

    Sharif's party had previously said that a "short postponement" would be acceptable.
    Rahman said the PPP was likely to benefit from a sympathy vote, but noted that both Zardari and Sharif's standing had received a boost from events since Bhutto's assassination.

    Rigging allegations
    On Tuesday, a PPP official said Bhutto was killed just hours before she was to go public with "proof" that Pakistani intelligence and electoral officials were planning to rig the vote.
    "Bhutto was scheduled to reveal a document containing proof of rigging plans by the election commission and Inter-Services Intelligence the night she was assassinated," Latif Khosa, a senator, said.

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    Khosa, who along with Bhutto authored the 160-page dossier documenting alleged rigging tactics, said they ranged from intimidation to fake ballots, and were in some cases unwittingly funded by US aid.

    "The state agencies are manipulating the whole process," he said.

    However, a spokesman for Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, dismissed the claim as "ridiculous".
    Rashid Qureshi said: "The president has said a free, fair, transparent and peaceful election is essential, which forms part of his overall strategy for transforming Pakistan into a fully democratic [nation].
    "Take it from me, it's going to be perhaps the best election that Pakistan has ever had."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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