In a latest development, Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz party had decided to participate in the January 8 general elections. PML-N had earlier decided to boycott elections fearing the polls will not be free and fair. Ahsan Iqbal, the spokesperson of PML-N said, “Since Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party is not with us on the boycott issue and is contesting the election, and also some other parties, we cannot leave the field open.” Nawaz Sharif held talks with the 35 member APDM alliance at his residence and had taken the decision to stall the boycott move. However Shahbaz Sharif left open the possibility of a late withdrawal by saying, “In these circumstances when PPP and other parties are contesting elections, we have decided that we will also take part in election campaign, but leave the option of boycott open.” Meanwhile Musharaff repeated his pledge to hold free election and said that he will lift emergency on December 15.
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Former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have joined with an opposition alliance yesterday to express disapproval of the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 8, 2008. They threatened to boycott the elections if President Musharraf does not improve conditions for an open election campaign and fair voting procedures. The Election Commission barred Mr. Sharif from contesting the elections and hours after that Sharif said,”Free and fair elections do not seem possible.” He also added that his removal from the parliamentary elections did not matter and would not affect the determination of the opposition to press its demands. “It is not an issue of my own person, it is a matter of democracy versus dictatorship,” he said. Earlier Benazir Bhutto opposed the boycott of elections, but said her party reserved the right to boycott the elections if conditions did not improve. “If elections are rigged, we are going to need to be in a position, like the people of Ukraine were, to protest those elections,” Ms. Bhutto said at a news conference at her home in Islamabad. “We really need to have a platform to which all the parties together can put the aspirations of the people for a democratic order.”
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After a much awaited meeting between, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto at Islamabad, the two former premiers said that the Government must meet a list of demands; otherwise they would boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections. Mr. Sharif and Ms. Bhutto said that the demands will be finalized within a few days by a committee. They also added that under the current state of emergency which his prevailing in Pakistan, the elections would not be free and fair. Raja Qamaruz Zaman, a top election commission official informed the media that due to Nawaz Sharif’s past criminal convictions, his nomination papers were rejected. But Sharif brushed off this ruling by telling his supporters that he would continue his fight for the people of Pakistan whether or not he is in the office. The main demand of the opposition parties would be the restoration of judiciary and constitution. The unity between the two former premiers will pose serious headache to President Musharaff who is planning to lift the emergency by December 16.
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A day after taking the oath as President for the second term, Pervez Musharraf addressed the caretaker parliament led by Prime Minister Mian Mohammed Soomro at his camp office. In his speech, Musharraf emphasized the need for neutrality from the part of care taker parliament by saying that “Your neutrality will be of critical value and you must make every effort to demonstrate it through your actions”. He stressed the importance of ensuring economic sustainability and maintenance of law and order at Pakistan in general and provinces in particular for holding a free and transparent election. He repeated the need for tackling the challenges posed by terrorism.
Talking about the media, Musharraf made it clear that he is a firm believer in the freedom of media and that the media can criticize the actions and policies of government including himself. He also asked the government to give full access to international observers and national and foreign media during the electoral process but stressed the fact that no interference from any quarter will be tolerated which affects conducting impartial elections. Concluding his speech, Musharraf wished the caretaker cabinet all success and added that he will continue to have a close look on their actions.
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Chairwoman of Pakistan People’s Party Benazir Bhutto said that the retirement of General Pervez Musharraf as chief of Army Staff was a welcome step, but she added, still more was needed to be done such as lifting of emergency, release of all political workers, lawyers and judges who were under arrest after emergency. She was talking to reporters after presiding over a high level meeting of all wings of PPP at her residence at Naudero. To a question she said that political dialogue could take place between her and Musharraf as he has decided to doff uniform as promised.
Benazir hoped that her party would win the forthcoming general elections 2008 and provide the people with employment. Ms.Bhutto said that despite a rigging plan prepared by the government, the PPP would contest the elections with the support of the people. She claimed that her party would serve the people under its manifesto of providing them with roti, kapra and makan (bread, clothes and shelter).
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The Election Commission of Pakistan has extended the time for filing nomination papers for National and Provincial Assemblies’ Elections scheduled on January 8, 2008. The candidates can submit their nominations till 12 midnight, November 27. The EC stated that the Returning Officers will remain tin their offices in order to facilitate the candidates who want to file their nomination papers. Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan, Kanwar Dilshad Azeem said that the Election Commission of Pakistan will take every possible step to ensure that the forthcoming general elections 2008 are held in a fair and transparent manner. "It was for the first time that Election Commission in collaboration with UNDP implemented a training plan on such a large scale for 75,000 Presiding Officers and about 500,000 Assistant Presiding Officers and polling officers throughout the country," he said.
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The Election Commission was directed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to "to take all necessary steps by December 1" to announce the formal result of the Presidential Election held in October. “Within a week he is going to take oath as a civilian president,” Attorney General Malik Mohammad Qayyum said. Pervez Musharraf won the Presidential Elections but the results were not declared officially as the Supreme Court’s verdict on Musharraf’s candidacy was pending. Many of the previous judges in the court who questioned the poll’s validity were sacked when the state of emergency was declared in the country by General Musharraf.
The new judges who heard the petitions challenging Musharraf’s candidacy have asked the Election Commission "to take all the necessary steps by 1 December, 2007 for final announcement" of the poll result. It is also said that Musharraf "shall relinquish the office of the chief of army staff" before taking oath as civilian President for another term. The ten-member bench was headed by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, who held that General Pervez Musharraf was eligible to contest the Presidential Election and did not suffer any disqualification under the constitution and the law. The Supreme Court also urged Musharraf to lift the state of emergency “at the earliest.’’
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