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Pakistan elections postponed, sources say

  • Story Highlights
  • Vote to be delayed at least four weeks, Election Commission source says
  • Elections were scheduled for January 8, but poll will be put off until February
  • Much of election infrastructure has been destroyed in riots
  • Violence follows assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
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ISLAMABAD (CNN) -- The Election Commission of Pakistan will delay parliamentary elections for at least a month, sources in the commission told CNN Tuesday.

The delay comes amid unrest following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The government plans to make a formal announcement Wednesday, the sources in the commission said Tuesday. The elections, originally scheduled for January 8, will take place some time in February, they said.

Bhutto's party and another major opposition party had urged the government not to delay the elections.

But various provincial government representatives had suggested that the government hold elections after the Muslim holy month of Muharram, Commission Secretary General Kanwar Dilshad said at a press conference Tuesday. The holiday, which follows a lunar calendar, will begin around January 9 and end about February 6. Video Watch more on the crisis in Pakistan »

Before news broke of the delay, Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he is confident the Pakistan People's Party -- which he has taken control of since Bhutto's death -- will be victorious in the parliamentary vote. His party urged that the government go ahead with elections on January 8.

Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, told reporters that he believed Musharraf intended to delay the vote because his party would not garner enough seats in parliament to rule.

The United States had kept its distance from the issue, saying it was up to the Pakistanis to decide the timing of the elections.

A U.S. Embassy official based in Pakistan, speaking on the condition of anonymity, had said the United States "wants to see the election held," but that "we would not object to" a postponement.

"Our greater concern would be if the elections are postponed indefinitely," he said.

The commission has said it was looking at reports from provincial governments about the prevailing law and order situation while making its determination, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Election offices in 13 districts of Sindh province were destroyed after Bhutto's assassination, Dilshad said. Sindh is Bhutto's home province and was the main base of her support.

Bhutto, 54, was killed Thursday in an attack that involved a gunman and an explosion in Rawalpindi, outside of the capital Islamabad. Her party and the Pakistani government dispute the cause of her death.

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The ensuing violence caused more than $200 million (12 billion Pakistani rupees) in damages and claimed at least 44 lives.

Pakistan's government described colossal devastation to the country's infrastructure after looters burned more than 150 train cars and wiped out telecommunications lines along the north-south railways, preventing goods and services from getting to all parts of Pakistan. Rampaging demonstrators ransacked banks, police stations, and factories. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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