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PPP to boycott presidential election in Pakistan

By Sumeera Riaz   |   July 28, 2013 at 1:05 PM   |   Comments

LAHORE, Pakistan, July 28 (UPI Next) -- The Pakistan Peoples Party, which governed Pakistan before May's elections, said Friday it would boycott Tuesday's presidential election to protest the Supreme Court's decision to move the election date up a week.

The Supreme Court July 24 ordered that presidential elections be held July 30, after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz -- which won May's voting -- petitioned the court to reschedule presidential election originally set for Aug. 6 by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Voting in the presidential election is by members of the Senate, National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies. The PML-N claimed it filed the petition because some parliamentarians will be in Saudi Arabia on pilgrimages and not return until after Aug. 9.

Senior PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said his party had serious reservations about the Supreme Court's decision because it has left the parties with no time to campaign for their candidates.

"The Supreme Court has joined hands with the PML-N government, which got increasingly restless" with the PPP presidential election campaign, Kaira said. He said the PPP is in consultation with the country's other parties "and it has enough votes from Senate, National Assembly and all four provincial assemblies for their candidate, Raza Rabbani."

PML-N Information Minister Pervez Rashid rejected the PPP objections as baseless and unconstitutional.

"The PPP should file a review petition against the Supreme Court decision if it wants a different date," he said.

Another major political party's presidential candidate, retired Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, said PPP objections were political and that the court decision was in line with the constitution.

PTI Chief Imran Khan told reporters in Islamabad his party would not boycott the election even though the political parties have no time to campaign.

"The PTI has decided to participate in presidential elections despite strong reservations," he said.

Under the 18th amendment to Pakistan's Constitution, the president has no authority to intervene in political matters. Actual power lies with the prime minister.

Public opinion on this election is mixed.

Amin Hafeez, 40, a Lahore entrepreneur, said the office, however ceremonial, is part of the democratic process.

"The president has no constitutional and public mandate to intervene in any political process," Hafeez said. "Therefore the common man finds himself disconnected from the election."

However, Sabahat Hussain, 55, a mass communications professor at the University of Punjab in Lahore, said, "The presidential election is equally important to the democratic process, as this office has been used for political vendettas in the past. It is very important that a fair and neutral person with no political leaning holds this office."

Outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was co-chairman of PPP at the same time, making party decisions while serving as president and meeting with political allies in the presidential office.

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, secretary general of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, a nonpartisan Islamabad think tank, does not see the election as part of the transition to democracy.

"I believe the whole exercise in this connection is nothing but just waste of time and money," he said.

"The president's office is a symbol of monarchy in the world where the president holds the real power, but in Pakistan we have a parliamentary system and the prime minister is the head of the state," Bilal Mehboob added.

"We should simply dispense with this ceremonial office," he said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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