Islamabad, Jan 1: The much-awaited January 8 polls in Pakistan are likely to be held in February in the wake of the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and the countrywide riots that followed.
The Election Commission will officially announce this later today. "Elections will not be delayed beyond February. We expect it to be towards the later part of next month," The News quoted an official of the EC, as saying. "We want the delay to be minimal. But the Election Commission needs a realistic amount of time to get things back on track," he added, referring to the turmoil that has gripped the country after Bhutto's assassination.
On Monday, the EC had delayed its decision regarding the schedule of the general elections in the country after a high-level meeting of the Commission.
During the meeting that was chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Qazi Mohammed Farooq, the EC officials said that the work of the Commission has been hampered in several areas of the country due to large scale rioting that followed Benazir's assassination.
They apprised the Chief Commissioner about the fragile law and order situation prevailing in most parts of the country, especially in Sindh where several offices of the Commission were set on fire. They said that the recompilation of the destroyed record of the Commission and redeployment of around one million temporary polling staff were an uphill task, which would require another 10 to 12 weeks.
According to the EC, its offices and ballot boxes and voting scanners were torched in Sukkur, Jamshoro, Naushehro Feroze, Qambar, Shahdadkot, Thatta, Ghotki, Jacobabad, Badin and Dadu districts of Sindh.
Quoting sources, the Dawn reported that it was not possible to complete the printing of ballot papers by January 5, as required by the programme prepared by the Commission.
The suspension of oil supply and closure of petrol and CNG stations adversely affected the electoral process in terms of transportation and logistics. The law and order situation in many partas of the country was not conducive to electioneering.
Meanwhile, both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) have made it clear that they do want any postponement in the schedule of the January 8 polls.