Pakistan election to be delayed


Published: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan elections will be delayed by one month following the turmoil sparked by Benazir Bhutto's assassination, despite opposition threats of street protests unless the crucial vote is held Jan. 8 as originally planned, a top official said Tuesday.

A senior Election Commission official told The Associated Press that the commission has agreed on a new date. He indicated it would not be before the second week of February, but refused to disclose the exact schedule before the formal announcement today.

The opposition is likely to accuse authorities of postponing the polls to help the ruling party, which is allied to President Pervez Musharraf. Many believe Bhutto's party could get a sympathy boost if the vote takes place on time. Bhutto had accused elements in the ruling party of plotting to kill her, a charge which it vehemently denies.

The killing of Bhutto, a former prime minister, triggered three days of nationwide riots that killed 58 people and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage. Bhutto's home province of Sindh was especially hard hit and the army was called on the streets. Ten election offices were burned.

"We need at least one month to make arrangements to hold free and fair elections after the damage caused to our offices in the Sindh province,'' the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

In addition to logistical problems arising from the destruction caused by the rioting, he said the caretaker governments of all four provinces of Pakistan had suggested the vote not be held during the holy month of Muharram from Jan. 10 through Feb. 8, because they could not guarantee security.

Meanwhile, a top aide of Bhutto revealed that on the day she was killed, the opposition leader was planning to give two U.S. lawmakers a 160-page dossier accusing the government of rigging the elections.

Bhutto was killed Thursday evening in a shooting and bombing attack on her vehicle as she left a campaign rally. She had been scheduled to meet hours later with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.

Sen. Latif Khosa, a lawmaker from Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party, said she had planned to give the lawmakers a report outlining complaints on "pre-poll rigging'' by Musharraf's government and the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Khosa said he did not know if Bhutto's killing was linked to her plans to release the document. The government has denied charges of vote rigging and said it had nothing to do with Bhutto's death.

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