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Pakistan counts down to elections
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With all the necessary arrangements in place, the countdown of Pakistan's general elections has started despite some uncertainty.


Briefing a news conference in Islamabad, caretaker information minister Nisar Memon said that Pakistan would hold free, fair, transparent and peaceful general elections on Monday to dismiss the suspicions of some media that there might be another postponement.


Memon said that the elections had attracted hundreds of foreign journalists and observers, who would monitor the whole process of polling.


Candidates from dozens of political parties will contest for a total of 272 seats in the National Assembly (NA) and 577 seats in four provincial assemblies in the elections.


The eastern Punjab province boasts of 148 NA seats. The party which wins the province is likely to win in the federal level. Statistics show that PML-Q gained 46 percent of the total seats in Punjab in the 2002 general elections. But things might be different this time. As Nawaz Sharif, PML-N leader and former PM, has returned from exile, it's possible for the party to snatch some ballots.


There are 61 NA seats in the southern Sindh province. Most of the people in rural areas of Sindh have been loyal supporters of Pakistan People's Party (PPP), while urban citizens will most probably cast their votes in favor of a party called Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).


It is still too early to predict the results of general elections in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Muttahida Majlis-e-amal (MMA), an alliance of some Islamic groups, captured 29 among the 35 seats in the province in 2002. However, because of MMA's poor performance in its 5-year rule, votes in the NWFP will possibly go to the PPP and the Awami National Party.


The local government of the southwestern Balochistan province will have to encourage people to participate in the elections because it had low turnout in 2002. With merely 14 seats in the NA, the Baloch voters believe that they have little say in the federal decision regarding the province and lose interest in voting.


Though uncertain about the results, the general public in the South Asian country hope to see a stable and peaceful Pakistan with its security situation and international image improved after the elections.


(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2008)

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