Pakistan elections postponed to Feb 18

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Islamabad, Jan 2 (UNI) General elections in Pakistan, which were to be held on January 8, were today postponed to February 18 by the Election Commission, citing disturbances in various parts of the country in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as the reason.

At a press conference here, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (Retd) Wazi Muhammad Farooq said the elections were being postponed as the authorities in Sindh and Punjab felt that the law and order situation in the two provinces was not conducive for holding the electoral exercise.

He said officials from Sindh informed the Commission that election offices and material had been burnt down at several places by mobs agitated over the killing of Ms Bhutto last Thursday. The Punjab Chief Secretary had also informed the commission that the general situation in the province was deteriorating.

Justice Farooq said the month-long Moharram would also be observed from January 10 and, therefore, the elections were being postponed. All political parties had also been informally consulted by the commission yesterday before arriving at the decision to postpone the elections.

''In the light of reports from provinces and the Election Commission's own consultations with political parties, the comnmission has reached the conclusion that the polls on January 8 be postponed...elections will now be held on February 18,'' he said.

He assured all political parties that the elections would be conducted in a transparent manner and asked them to accept the new dates in the country's larger interest and take part in the exercise.

UNI XC/RP BD1832

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