General election in Pak could be delayed by a year

Updated on Nov 05, 2007 07:27 PM IST

The constitution allows parliament to delay polls for a year under a state of emergency, says Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

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PTI | By, Islamabad

The general election in Pakistan could be deferred as the constitution allowed parliament to delay polls for a year under a state of emergency, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Sunday.

"As a result of what has happened, there could be some timing differences but no decision has been made," Aziz said a day after President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency and suspended fundamental rights and political activities.

While pointing out that the steps taken by Musharraf were "extra-constitutional", he said: "If you look at our constitution, when you have an emergency, the parliament could give itself more time -- up to a year -- in terms of holding the next elections.

"However, at this point no decision has been made and we are deliberating (on the issue)," Aziz told a news conference.

Earlier in the day, Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem said that all other matters including elections have gone into abeyance. The schedule for the general election due in January might be "adjusted" after the imposition of emergency.

"Elections will be held but the dates may be adjusted because of emergency in the country," Azeem was quoted as saying by Geo TV. "Nothing is certain at the moment."

Aziz said a decision on holding elections would be taken after discussions within the ruling PML-Q party and talks with other political parties.

Pakistan's national and four provincial assemblies will complete their term on November 15 and a general election was scheduled to be held within 60 days by mid-January.

Responding to a question on whether Musharraf would doff his uniform after being sworn in for a second term as president, Aziz said: "This matter is in the court and it's sub judice. So let's see what the court decides and then we'll comment on it."

The government was committed to Musharraf's plan for a phased transition to democracy and holding elections, he said. Aziz, however, was non-committal on how long the emergency would last.

"I would say it will be there as long as it is necessary but our desire is to keep it as short as feasible. When you have such a measure you want to see some outcome -- a visible improvement in the security situation, harmony restored and all three pillars of the state functioning well."

Aziz dismissed reports that the emergency was akin to martial law and pointed out that the print media was functioning as before. The government intended to bring in a code of conduct for the media, including TV channels, and discussions on this issue will be held with broadcasters, publishers and journalists from tomorrow.

Private television news channels continued to be blacked out for the second day today across the country.

The Prime Minister also defended Musharraf's decision to impose emergency, saying the country was facing many challenges. The constitution was held in abeyance but the Prime Minister, chief ministers and the cabinet will continue to function as before, Aziz said.

Aziz also said an order passed by "seven former judges of the Supreme Court" to annul the emergency could not be implemented as it was issued after the declaration of the suspension of the constitution. "This order was passed after the proclamation, so technically these people ceased to be judges."

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