Doubts over possibility of elections in Pakistan on Jan 8

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Islamabad, Dec 29 (UNI) With violence continuing uanabated in several cities of Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, doubts are being raised on holding general elections as scheduled on January 8.

The government had yesterday announced that the elections would be held as scheduled but the situation appears far from normal for undertaking the electoral exercise.

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has already announced its decision to boycott the polls while the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Bhutto is yet to take a final position on the issue.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday spoke to Mr Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of the slain leader, and urged him to participate in the polls. The Pakistan Tehriq-e-Insaf of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and the Jamat-e-Islami had also earlier taken decision not to participate in the polls.

Meanwhile, normal life in the capital city of Islamabad was virtually paralysed today with people preferring to stay indoors.

Very few vehicles were on the roads and there were hardly any policemen at some of the sensitive locations. Petrol pumps in the city have been closed for three days now.

Meanwhile, bandhs were being organised in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi from where reports of fresh incidents of violence continued to pour in.

No one is ready to buy the government's statement that the elections would be held as scheduled.

Yesterday, caretaker Prime Minister Mohammadmian Soomro said the January 8 elections would be held as scheduled.

''Right now the elections stand as they are,'' the Prime Minister said, when asked whether any decision has been made to postpone the election.

All political parties have been invited to review the situation and chalk out a future course of action, he said.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda-linked Pakistani militant Baitullah Mehsud was not involved in the assassination of Ms Bhutto, his spokesman Maulvi Omar said over phone from an undisclosed location.

''I strongly deny it. Tribal people have their own customs. We don't strike women,'' he said.

The government said yesterday Mehsud was responsible for Bhutto's killing as she left an election rally in Rawalpindi on Thursday.

UNI

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