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Pak elections: EC to decide tomorrow
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

The Election Commission (EC) of Pakistan will hold a crucial meeting on Monday amid indication that it is considering postponement of elections scheduled for January 8.

The commission’s meeting has been convened in chaotic conditions prevailing in the country in the aftermath of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Violence has gripped most parts of the country while the army has been deployed in 16 districts of Sindh province where its intensity is strongest.

Another major political party, the Nawaz Sharif faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), has pulled out of the electoral process while the central committee of the PPP of the slain leader Bhutto is meeting on Sunday to take a final decision on the boycott.

Party sources, however, said the PPP is currently in a state of mourning and it is impossible for it to think of elections. MQM chief Altaf Hussain has also called for deferring the polls by at least three months.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mohammad Mian Soomro on Friday announced after the cabinet meeting that elections would be held on schedule on January 8 but said he planned to call an all-party conference to hold further consultations on the issue.

But all opposition parties have refused to sit with a toothless premier handpicked by Musharraf who continues to call the shots. They have called for Musharraf's resignation and establishment of a neutral government with full authority to supervise the elections to be conducted by a reconstituted independent Election Commission.

The Election Commission is also facing practical and logistic problems to organise elections under the prevailing situation. A large number of its offices in Sindh and other parts of the country have been torched by enraged mobs. The law and order situation prevented the EC from sending poll material across the country, EC officials said.

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