PAKISTAN: Election process gets underway

10 January 1997

The caretaker government has reiterated its commitment to holding elections on 3 February for national and provincial assembly seats. Nominations for candidates closed on 21 December and the period for scrutinising nominations ended on 28 December. A final list of candidates is scheduled to be publicised on 9 January.

Many parties have demanded an extension of the tight election schedule and have criticised the government for changing the rules governing candidates' eligibility, causing a high level of confusion. However, about 57 political parties and independent groups submitted nominations, including Imran Khan, who is to run against former leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif, in Punjab province.

Despite submitting nominations the country's main fundamentalist Islamist party, Jamaat-i-Islami announced on 29 December that it will boycott the election. The party's leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmad told reporters in Lahore, 'the decision not to participate in the election will help promote democratic values.' The caretaker government has been criticised for failing to control corruption since dismissing former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and dissolving the National Assembly, last November.

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