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=> ISLAMABAD – Delaying the announcement about the sc

ISLAMABAD – Delaying the announcement about the schedule of general elections in the post-Benazir Bhutto’s murder scenario for one more day, the Election Commission said Tuesday that it would be decided after consulting political parties.

“Any decision in this regard will be taken after taking all political parties into confidence on Wednesday,” Secretary Election Commission Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad told media here.

Earlier, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (Retd) Qazi Muhammad Farooq Tuesday chaired the second emergency meeting of the ECP here.

The meeting reviewed the law and order situation in the country in the light of the reports tabled by the provincial governments. During the meeting many issues like the printing of ballot papers, strike of polling staff from Balochistan and NWFP provinces, overall law and order situation, loss of official record in the ten districts of Sindh and the stances of different political parties in this regard were assessed.

However, according to the official sources, the participants of the meeting have strongly suggested the postponement of the polls for at least one month owing to the law and order situation and urged the ECP to announce new date for elections after Moharram in February.

Secretary EC Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad while talking to the media persons after the meeting said that the political parties would be briefed about the ground realities and the suggestions of the parties would be received till Tuesday by 6:00 pm. He explained that several commission offices in Sindh have been ransacked and record has been set on fire, which included electoral roll and ballot papers. He added that the election offices were burnt in 10 districts of southern Sindh and ECP is not able to make arrangements for elections in the affected areas within a few days.

Responding to a question, he said that two leading political parties, Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), are strongly in the favour of holding elections on January 08.

It is worth mentioning here that PPP abd PML-N have opposed any delay in the election and have termed such an act as an attempt to rig the polls. PML-Q is also willing to take part in the election as per scheduled, however some of its members want holding the elections on January 08.

Agencies adds: The election officials said they would announce a February date for general elections on Wednesday, postponing the crucial vote in the chaotic aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

“After consulting with the political parties, we will give the date tomorrow (Wednesday),” Secretary Election Commission Kanwar Dilshad said Tuesday after two days of meetings, including talks Musharraf held with top aides late Monday.

“It looks impossible to hold elections on January 8,” Dilshad said, adding that new date would be announced on Wednesday (today).

A senior Election Commission official earlier confirmed the vote would be held in February.

Meanwhile, The New York Times quoted Kanwar as saying that the elections had been postponed by the government until February.

He said it would not be possible to hold the elections in a week as planned because the printing of ballot papers stopped after Benazir’s death and rioters damaged election offices in Sindh.

“In 11 districts of the Sindh province, offices of assistant election commissioners have been burnt to the ground,” said Kanwar Dilshad. “Nothing is left.”

He defended the decision to delay until February, saying it was the first time in the country’s history that an election had been postponed after the date was announced.

APP adds: The Election Commission of Pakistan here on Tuesday categorically denied the news report about postponement of upcoming polls.

Commenting on a news item issued by a private news agency which quoted New York Times that elections had been deferred till February, Secretary Election Commission Kanwar Dilshad said that there was no reality in it.

Talking to the APP, he said that he had not even given any statement in this regard. He said the Election Commission in its meeting held here had decided to conduct election in consultation with political leaders. He said that talks with political leaders were in progress and the Election Commission is yet to decide about holding of polls. The Commission would consult political parties and meet again Wednesday to decide about polls.
Source: The Nation
Date:1/2/2008