By-poll postponement stirs fresh trouble in Pakistan

May 6th, 2008 - 4:42 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, May 6 (IANS) The Election Commission’s decision to defer by-elections has generated fresh mistrust in Pakistan’s turbulent politics with unanswered questions on who initiated the move and the motive behind it. The poll panel’s move Monday to postpone the elections, due on June 18, by two months on grounds of the poor law and order situation in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) was so unexpected that it provoked universal condemnation - from the prime minister’s office and ministers to senior members of the ruling coalition’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the opposition too.

Some said it was part of a conspiracy against the new set-up by the presidency. However, the presidency was quick to announce that President Pervez Musharraf learnt about the postponement through a television report.

Compounding the confusion was NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain stating that the provincial government had sought the postponement only after Rahman Malik, the prime minister’s adviser, made a request.

Asked to explain himself, Malik simply said: “I have done nothing wrong and wait for an official statement.”

PPP spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said Malik should “explain his position to the party as well as the media”.

Information Minister Sherry Rahman brushed aside suggestions that the Election Commission had consulted the federal government before putting off the elections.

PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari also condemned the postponement, saying he would inform Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, a party loyalist, about the party’s reservations over the decision.

Zardari said he wanted to know the “real reasons” behind the postponement, terming the reasons cited by the Election Commission as not credible.

A PML-N leader added to the air of distrust and doubted the PPP’s intentions. “I think there is something cooking in the PPP in collaboration with the presidency,” a PML-N leader told IANS requesting anonymity.

He said this could be a deliberate move to shift the attention of the people from the issue of judges’ restoration, which was being unnecessarily delayed by the PPP.

The announcement of the postponement had come when PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif, former prime minister and party chief Nawaz Sharif’s brother, was filing his nomination papers to contest polls from Lahore for the Punjab parliament.

According to Election Commission secretary Kanwar Dilshad, the decision to postpone the by-polls had been taken in view of a report received from the NWFP home secretary that elections should be put off because of an “adverse law and order situation” and the upcoming budget session in the national and provincial assemblies.

Dilshad said the commission had not consulted political parties because it was expected to take “administrative decisions on its own”.

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