Pakistan poll delay a ploy, say parties

LAHORE - Opposition parties yesterday accused Pakistan's government of delaying elections to avoid a likely defeat and said they feared the move could lead to more violence in a country still shaken by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

LAHORE - Opposition parties yesterday accused Pakistan's government of delaying elections to avoid a likely defeat and said they feared the move could lead to more violence in a country still shaken by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Meanwhile, Pakistani troops killed at least 25 suspected militants in a remote region close to the Afghan border where al Qaida and Taliban fighters operate.

A senior election commission official said on Tuesday night that the commission had put back the polls, originally planned for January 8, because of turmoil triggered by Bhutto's killing.

He indicated the new date would not be before the second week of February, but refused to disclose the exact schedule.

The opposition alleged the authorities were postponing the polls to help the ruling party, which is allied to President Pervez Musharraf. Many believe Bhutto's party would get a sympathy boost if the vote took place on time.

"We reject this delay outright," said Babar Awan of Bhutto's party.

"Musharraf fears outright defeat. If this election process is jeopardised, they (our followers) may protest again and there is a chance of riots."

The killing of Bhutto, a former prime minister, triggered three days of nationwide unrest that left 58 people dead. - Sapa-AP

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