12/31/2007, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Delay “expected” in Pakistan Election

by Qaiser Felix
A ruling party spokesman proposes postponing the poll. Election Commission will announce its decision tomorrow. The Pakistan People’s Party appoints Ms Bhutto’s son as her official successor, says it is ready for the 8 January poll. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan accuses Musharraf of involvement in the assassination, calls on the United Nations to conduct an independent inquiry.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The Parliamentary elections scheduled for 8 January 2008 are likely to be put off by three to four months. Although not yet officially announced a proposal to delay the poll by some weeks was made by a spokesman for President Pervez Musharraf’s Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid i-Azam (PML-Q). Pakistan's Central Election Commission (CEC) is to meet on Monday and is expected to announce its decision Tuesday on whether to hold parliamentary elections or not. The CEC also reported that in at least nine districts its local offices were set on fire during clashes that followed the assassination of Benazir Bhutto last Thursday. Attackers reduced candidates’ and voters’ lists to ashes.

According to the ruling PML-Q the ongoing instability might affect the credibility of the electoral process if conducted under present circumstances. But Benazir Bhutto’s party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), wants the poll to go ahead as scheduled on 8 January. The other main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has also decided against boycotting the vote.

It is not yet clear who will be the PPP star candidate. The party itself appointed Ms Bhutto’s son, Bilawal, as her successor. But the 19-year-old has already announced his intention to continue his studies at Oxford, leaving the party de facto in the hands of his father Asif Ali Zardari who was appointed party co-chairman. Mr Zardari could not take on the party chairmanship himself because of his controversial past. Known as Mr 10 per cent for alleged kickbacks, he was jailed in 1996 when his wife was removed from power and was freed only in 2004 when all charges against him, which included corruption, murder and drug trafficking, were dropped.

In the meantime last week’s events are still reverberating across the country. Increasingly there are demands from various quarters for an independent inquiry into Ms Bhutto’s assassination.

The PPP has already said it will not accept any government investigation and wants instead a United Nations probe similar to the one underway in Lebanon over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Iqbal Haider, general secretary of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), has also demanded that United Nations’ experts investigate the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Mr Haider called the government’s report on the event “concocted and ridiculous,” saying that its judicial commission probing the affair was not independent. “We hold President Pervez Musharraf responsible for this murder,” he added.

For his part HRCP Chairperson Asma Jahangir said on Saturday that circumstantial evidence suggested the government was guilty of foul play.

She also warned Musharraf’s other main rival, Nawaz Sharif, to watch out for his own security.

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