Postponement of Pakistan election imminent

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Islamabad, Dec 30: Postponement of parliamentary elections in Pakistan seems imminent as the Election Commission (EC) convened an urgent meeting in the wake of violence and unrest with President Pervez Musharraf saying any decision on postponing the polls will be taken in consultations with political parties.

''The law and order situation suffered eteriorating following unfortunate assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday and activities pertaining to pre-poll arrangements adversely affected,'' a EC statement said. It said the election material including electoral rolls were reduced to ashes in nine districts of Sindh province and a contesting candidate for the provincial assembly had been killed in northwestern Swat district.

''The commission has, therefore, called an emergency meeting on Monday,'' said the statement, as President Musharraf said the entire nation was in mourning over the tragic death of Bhutto.

He told a high level meeting that miscreants and anti-social elements cannot be allowed to damage lives and property of the common man in the guise of protests.

At least 38 people were killed and hundreds of banks and buildings were burnt or damaged since Thursday evening.

The sympathies of entire nation were with the bereaved family, leadership and workers of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in their hour of grief, the President said.

Local TV channels quoted President Musharraf as saying that the army and paramilitary rangers would remain deployed in violence-hit areas all over the country till the law and order situation improved.

He said elements who wish to exploit the situation by looting and plundering must be dealt with firmly and all measures be taken to ensure safety and security of the people.

He particularly mentioned the problems being faced by people as the chemists, bakeries, grocery stores and petrol and CNG pumps had been closed due to fear of the hooligans and looters.

The President further directed the law enforcement agencies to take a serious note and ensure early return to normalcy so that the sufferings of the common man are addressed.


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