Elections in Pakistan would be held on time: PPP

Islamabad: Amidst growing speculation that a cleric's push for electoral reforms is aimed at delaying upcoming polls, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party on Wednesday pledged that elections would be held on time and a delay of even a day would not be permitted.

The decision was made at a meeting of the PPP's top leadership that was chaired in Karachi by President Asif Ali Zardari, who heads the party.

A statement issued after the meeting said "some elements" were trying to disrupt the electoral system and postpone the elections.

The PPP's leadership reiterated the commitment of the government and the party to thwart any attempt to postpone the elections.

"The meeting made it clear that elections will be held on time as stipulated in the Constitution and no delay, even for a day, will be permitted on any pretext," the statement said.

The PPP leaders met even as cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who heads the Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran, stepped up his calls for electoral reforms ahead of the general election expected to be held by May.

Qadri has said he will lead a "long march" from Lahore to Islamabad to pressure the PPP-led government into consulting the army and judiciary on forming a caretaker set-up to oversee the polls.

Though the PPP's statement did not name Qadri, insiders said the cleric had rattled the party's leadership.

Over the past few days, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has reached to leaders of parties in the ruling coalition and opposition parties like PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif to discuss ways to counter the threat posed by Qadri.

During Wednesday's meeting, the PPP formed a four-member committee to talk with other political forces and the PML-N government of Punjab province on the "current situation with a view to holding timely elections in a transparent, free and fair manner and to confront any challenge to it".

The four-member committee comprises senior PPP leaders Khursheed Shah, Farooq Naek, Nazar Muhammad Gondal and Mian Raza Rabbani.

During the meeting that lasted over two hours, the PPP leaders expressed their determination to "maintain law and order at all cost and to protect the life and property of citizens against any adventurism".

The leaders said that if elections can be held in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq, there was no reason that polls could not be held in Pakistan on time.

Among those who attended the meeting were PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, and federal ministers Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Syed Naveed Qamar, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and Rehman Malik.