Pak EC postpones by-polls by 2 months

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{image-pakistan flag_06052008.jpg}Islamabad, May 6: On the "request" of the NWFP government, Pakistan's Election Commission (EC) has postponed the by-elections scheduled for June 18 by two months. Now the by-polls will be held on August 18, drawing protests from several political parties presently running the federal government.

Among the prominent leaders who would be contesting the by-polls are PML-N's Sharif brothers (Nawaz and Shahbaz) and PPP co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari. While the Sharif brothers were disqualified by the EC from running in February 18 polls, Zardari couldn't contest because he was then living-in-exile and couldn't file papers. According to sources, NWFP chief secretary had in a report informed the EC that the law and order situation in the province was not positive and holding elections in such a situation would be a difficult task.

"In view of the report received from the NWFP Home secretary regarding the law and order situation prevailing in that province, the forthcoming budget sessions in the National/ provincial assemblies and the overall security environment, the EC has deferred [the by-elections] for a period of two months," the Daily Times quoted EC Secretary Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad as saying.

He also said that that the EC might reconsider its decision if the political parties filed a reference asking the commission to review its decision.

PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari also condemned the two-month postponement of by-elections. In a statement, he demanded to know the real reasons behind the decision, as "the reasons cited by the EC did not appear to be credible". Even if the law and order situation was bad in a particular locality, it provided no justification to postpone by-elections throughout the country, he added.

PML-N also rejected the postponement of by-polls, terming the justification as 'lame' and 'thoughtless'. Spokesman Siddiqul Farooq reportedly said that the postponement of by-elections because of the law and order situation and the budget session was "thoughtless". The present law and order situation was 100 times better than that in January and February and the elections had nothing to do with the budget, as they are conducted by the EC and the district administration.

Meanwhile, the Presidency last evening refuted claims that the by-polls had been delayed on the orders of President Pervez Musharraf. Sources said that the EC was an autonomous body, which takes decisions of its own accord and is not bound to the President.


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