Pak SC bars notification of poll winners

Islamabad, August 27:

Pakistan’s Supreme Court today stopped the official declaration of winning candidates in local government elections who hold degrees from religious seminaries. A single bench of the court through an order faxed to the Election Commission office directed that the results of such candidates not be published in the official gazette. A total of 222,769 candidates contested the elections held in two phases in the 110 districts across the country. Deciding on various petitions filed by a number of candidates, the court had ruled that only those religious degree holders with matriculation certificates (equivalent to the O level) in religious subjects, as well as in English, Urdu and Pakistan studies, would be allowed to contest. The ruling of the apex court was sought after the Lahore High Court banned candidates with religious degrees from contesting.

However, the Election Commission temporarily allowed the candidates with religious degrees to participate on the grounds they had been allocated election symbols before the court order.

The criterion to make formal education a must for candidates came against the backdrop of intended moves by the government to discourage “extremist” elements from holding public office. Before the polls, President Pervez Musharraf had himself been campaigning, calling on people not to vote for extremists. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ruling party today claimed victory in municipal elections that have been marred by violence while the opposition alleged massive fraud. “The Pakistan Muslim League and our allies have won the local bodies elections after a tough competition,” Information Minister Sheikh Rashid said.

“The results show that people have reposed confidence in President Musharraf and his policies of enlightened moderation.” Yesterday, Musharraf had also described the outcome

as a popular endorsement of his advocacy of political and religious moderation. “The outcome

of the elections throughout the country is a victory for the moderates, for the enlightened, and

a defeat for the extremists,” Musharraf told a meeting in Karachi. The opposition heaped

allegations on the conduct of the electoral exercise by the election commission, saying fair and transparent polls were not possible under Musharraf’s dictatorship.