Pakistan postpones by-polls a second time

May 5th, 2008 - 7:25 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, May 5 (IANS) Citing the law and order situation and the forthcoming budget, the Election Commission of Pakistan Monday postponed the June 18 by-elections by two months, triggering shock among the ruling coalition. “In view of the law and order reports and because of the budget session due in June, the by-elections are being postponed,” Election Commission Secretary Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad told IANS.

He said the elections would now be held Aug 18 and a new schedule issued.

The by-polls were originally scheduled to be held June 3 and then rescheduled for June 18.

Dilshad said those who had already filed applications to contest the by-elections need not apply again.

Voicing shock over the announcement, Farhatullah Babar, spokesman for the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), told IANS: “This is strange that the ECP has postponed the polls. Our party chief may hold a press conference in this regard.” He said his party was not taken into confidence on the matter and “we are looking from where the ECP has received this report.”

Sidiqul Farooq, spokesman for the ruling coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said: “This is beyond understanding… we believe that the law and order situation is much better now than it was in February when the general elections were held.”

A PML-N parliamentarian said the elections could have been postponed to keep Shahbaz Sharif away from chief minister ship of Punjab. Shahbaz, younger brother of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, Monday filed nominations to contest from Lahore in the by-polls for the Punjab provincial assembly.

The party has nominated him for chief minister’s position but he is not an assembly member and needs to be elected to the house before becoming chief minister of the province. Presently, a junior party leader Dost Muhammad Khosa is the chief minister as a stopgap arrangement.

Dilshad said the elections were postponed after taking into consideration the law and order situation and schedule of parliament that will meet early June for the budget session.

New candidates who want to contest would be welcome to apply now, he said. When asked about the reason for the postponement, he said the main reason was the overall law and order and the security situation in the country, in addition to the forthcoming federal budget and that of the provinces.

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