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Violence puts Pakistan's elections at risk

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  • Pakistani election offices torched in post-assassination riots
  • Bhutto's party must select new leader; her son could be named
  • Nawaz Sharif says his party will boycott January 8 polls
  • Nation's election commission to meet on Monday
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KARACHI, Pakistan (CNN) -- Violence following the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto could threaten Pakistan's January 8 parliamentary elections.

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Benazir Bhutto supporters trash an office of President Pervez Musharraf's party Friday in Peshawar.

Protesters outraged by Bhutto's killing are burning election offices in districts across Pakistan's Sindh province, according to media reports in Pakistan.

Voter rolls and ballot boxes are kept in such offices, so the attacks could derail preparations for the vote.

Rioting that erupted after Bhutto was killed Thursday in Rawalpindi has led to dozens of deaths and much damage to buildings and vehicles in Sindh and other locations throughout Pakistan. Sindh, Bhutto's home province, is a bastion of support for Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party.

As for the upcoming elections, Nawaz Sharif, another key Pakistani opposition leader, has said that he and his party would boycott the polls. Video Watch the new images of the Bhutto gunman »

Officials from the PPP are to meet Sunday, when they may decide who will replace Bhutto as head of the party.

PPP sources said Bhutto's son, Bilawal, is to read the slain leader's will to the party leadership at that meeting. At least one news report in Pakistan said he is to be named party leader there.

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The Pakistani election commission plans to meet on Monday to discuss the elections for parliament -- which will eventually choose the prime minister, a post that Bhutto and Sharif have held.

Political turmoil has marked Pakistan since President Pervez Musharraf imposed an emergency declaration on November 3, a decree he lifted earlier this month.

He suspended and later reinstated the constitution. He removed the country's Supreme Court justices, replacing them with his own choices.

Opposition parties, including Bhutto's, had demanded the emergency declaration be lifted as a condition for their participation in the January 8 elections.

"It is my commitment to the entire nation of Pakistan and its people that the elections on the eighth of January will be held on time and will be absolutely fair and transparent," Musharraf said in a televised nationwide address earlier this month.

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Critics allege that Musharraf imposed the emergency order so he could remain in power by avoiding an expected ruling from the Supreme Court that would have nullified his October presidential election victory. However, Musharraf argued that the steps were necessary to stabilize the nation.

Musharraf, who came to power in a 1999 coup, held the posts of president and army chief until he stepped down from the military post recently, in part to placate the political opposition. Last month, he took the oath of office as a civilian for a third five-year term. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Zain Verjee contributed to this report.

All About Pakistani PoliticsBenazir BhuttoPakistan Peoples PartyNawaz Sharif

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