Elections on Jan 8 impossible: poll panel official

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS

Islamabad : Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary Kanwar M. Dilshad said Wednesday that the widespread violence following the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had made it “impossible” for elections to be held as per schedule on Jan 8.

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“It seems impossible to hold polls as scheduled,” Dilshad told reporters before entering a crucial meeting to decide on a new date for the polls.

Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) have demanded that elections be held Jan 8 but parties supportive of President Pervez Musharraf have been calling for postponement.

Musharraf will address the nation at 8 p.m. Wednesday and is expected to speak about the elections and an inquiry into Bhutto’s murder.

ECP officials said more than 40 election offices in 13 districts were destroyed during the violence that erupted following Bhutto’s killing on Dec 27 and it is not possible to make poll arrangements by Jan 8.

The agitating protestors also burnt election material and destroyed records in many parts of the country, particularly in Bhutto’s home province of Sindh.

The ECP was to Tuesday decide on the final date for the elections but deferred it to Wednesday saying it would confer with political parties before taking the final decision.

“We’ll take the decision keeping in view the suggestions by political parties and reports we have received from our district and provincial offices,” Dilshad said.