Pakistan poll to be postponed: Election Commission

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS

Islamabad : The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to postpone the Jan 8 polls in view of the situation in the country after the murder of former prime minister Benaqzir Bhutto and will announce new dates for national and provincial assembly elections on Monday, a senior official of the commission told IANS.

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“Today in an informal meeting the senior officials of the ECP discussed the situation and unrest in the country and concluded that elections will have to be postponed,” said the official requesting anonymity.

He said that the formal decision in this regard will be announced Monday after a meeting with government and security officials.

After Saturday’s meeting the ECP released a press statement saying that the election scheduled next month had been “adversely affected” by unrest in the country and that it would hold an urgent meeting on Monday.

After opposition leader Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, another candidate was killed in a bomb blast Friday.

The commission said in its statement: “All activities pertaining to pre-poll arrangements, including printing of ballot papers and logistics as well as training of polling personnel, have been adversely affected.”

In some places, the commission said, the security situation was “not conducive” to holding the elections on Jan 8. “Election Commission offices in nine districts have been set on fire, leaving electoral rolls reduced to ashes.”

Benazir Bhutto had returned to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile to take part in the poll.

After Bhutto’s assassination, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz – the country’s other major party – has already announced boycott of the polls.

Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has said it will decide about taking part in the polls on Sunday evening after prayers for Bhutto three days after her death.