Pakistan election delayed until February 18

Pakistan’s general election has been delayed until February 18 because of unrest sparked by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the chief election commissioner announced on Wednesday.

“In the light of the circumstances, the new date for general elections is February 18 2008 instead of January 8,” chief election commissioner Qazi Mohammad Farooq told a news conference.

“I assure all political parties that the elections will be fair, free and transparent. I appeal to them to accept this decision in the supreme national interest and participate fully.”

Farooq said the unrest that followed Bhutto’s assassination on Thursday seriously disrupted preparations for the elections in Pakistan’s four provinces.

“It affected printing of ballot papers for four days and created a hindrance of the distribution of ballot papers. Due to these ground realities, supplying papers and voter lists was not possible on January 8,” he said.

“There was a suggestion that the general elections should be postponed after the month of Moharram.
This suggestion came from the Punjab government,” he added.

The Muslim holy month of Moharram is set to begin on January 10 and end on February 8, depending on sightings of the moon. It is often blighted by sectarian violence between the Sunni and Shiite communities.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for former Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday that the opposition leader’s party would take part in elections.

“Yes, we will certainly participate,” Sharif’s spokesperson, Zaeem Qadri, said.

However, the chairperson of Sharif’s party, Raja Zafar ul-Haq, said that the delay was “unfair and not reasonable”.—AFP

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