Revision of Pakistan by-polls schedule raises eyebrows

April 20th, 2008 - 3:50 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto

Islamabad, April 20 (IANS) The Election Commission’s unexpected move to revise the by-election schedule “continues to be discussed in political circles as this is a unique instance in the commission’s history”, a media report Sunday said. Quoting sources in the commission, The News said: “Never before a decision taken regarding the elections or by-elections was reviewed, without citing any concrete reasons.”

Chief Election Commissioner judge (retd.) Qazi Muhammad Farooq had announced April 14 that the by-polls for eight National Assembly seats and 30 seats in the provincial assemblies would be held June 3.

On April 17, the date was pushed back to June 18 “without any request from the stakeholders”, The News said.

“Neither had anyone objected to the schedule nor approached the Election Commission for its review,” The News quoted its sources as saying in reply to a question.

The sources also said that the postponement could benefit all the contesting parties and candidates.

“Different theories are attributed to this unexpected development, because the electoral body had made revision of its decisions in the past as well, but not without requests by political parties or candidates,” the newspaper said.

“But, surprisingly, this time no one approached the commission or e-mailed any request in this connection to it, but still the schedule was revised,” it added.

There is a general feeling here that the polls were deferred to facilitate Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in case he intended to take part in the by-elections.

On Sunday Zardari did just that. He announced that he would contest from his slain wife Benazir Bhutto’s Larkana constituency in Sindh and that he would become the prime minister if the “need arises”.

Zardari’s remarks came during an interview to BBC Urdu telecast Sunday.

A source in the PPP had an entirely different take on the subject: the revision of the schedule was linked to the budget, as the ruling coalition would not have enough to offer to the masses in the budget, likely to be announced in the first week of June, and this could go against it on polling day.

“To me this appears to be a calculated move to cause electoral harm to the government. However, people are politically and economically conscious to understand the whole scenario,” The News quoted the source as saying.

Election Commission secretary Kanwar Dilshad denied that any party or individual was being facilitated.

The decision to review the schedule was taken after feedback from the media and was done on moral grounds as the political parties were focused on the proceedings in the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies, he stated.

“The commission had not been able to interact with political parties and civil society. Therefore, after consultation with the commission members, it was decided to revise the schedule,” Dilshad added.

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