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Pakistani parliamentary elections postponed
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Pakistan's parliamentary polls, originally scheduled for Jan. 8, would be postponed to Feb. 18, the Election Commission said Wednesday.


The chief election commissioner Qazi Muhammad Farooq said the postponement was mainly due to damages to election materials.


"The violence, which followed the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, led to the destruction of eleven election offices with electoral rolls and transparent ballot boxes, and adversely affected the printing of ballot papers, training of poll workers and other pre-election logistics," Farooq said at a news conference here.


The Sindh province requested the postponement of general elections, said Farooq.


The Election Commission on Wednesday reviewed the reports from the provincial election commission offices and held consultations with political parties and eventually made the decision to postpone the elections.


"I assure all political parties elections will be fair and transparent," said Farooq.


He also urged all political parties to participate in the elections.


The Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) quoted President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif as saying that there was no reason for postponement of elections and those desirous of delaying polls wanted so to avoid crushing defeat.


Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) has urged the Election Commission to hold the elections as scheduled. Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari, who is the co-chairman of PPP, said any delay of the general elections would be unacceptable.


Secretary General of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (PML), Mushahid Hussain Syed, on Wednesday said the decision of the Election Commission regarding Jan. 8 elections would be acceptable to their party.


He said PML was prepared to take part in the elections, and the date which the commission would fix for the polls would be followed.


The electioneering gained momentum when former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, top leader of PML-N, decided on Dec. 9 to take part in the elections.


However, the election campaigns came to an abrupt stop when Bhutto was killed at a election rally in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27.


The assassination of Bhutto left the whole nation in grief and supporters of PPP took to the streets in protest. In Sindh province where PPP has a lot of supporters, election materials and offices were destroyed in riots triggered by Bhutto's death.


The PPP on Sunday nominated Bilawal, Bhutto's 19-year-old son, as new chairman of the party and announced it would contest the elections, putting the whole election process back on track.


A total of 7,335 candidates will contest the elections for 342 seats in the National Assembly and altogether 728 seats in other four provincial assemblies.


(Xinhua News Agency January 3, 2008)

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