Accessibility links

Pakistan Interior Ministry Recommends No Ban on Election Rallies

Pakistani officials have drawn up recommendations for ensuring security during the country's upcoming political campaign season, following last week's devastating bombing in Karachi. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that officials did not propose banning public rallies, but they did recommend avoiding big public processions that have been a hallmark of campaigns in the past.

Pakistan's interior minister said that, while it is difficult to prevent suicide attacks such as the one that struck Benazir Bhutto's motorcade, more can be done to minimize threats to campaigns posed by what he called "extremist forces."

Javed Iqbal Cheema, the ministry's anti-terrorism chief, said officials have drawn up a code of conduct for campaign activities, and plan to discuss it with all political parties.

"There will be no ban on public meetings, but the ministry has recommended in the code of conduct that big processions in the streets or in the roads should be avoided," Cheema said.

Officials with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party have charged that restricting public campaigns has more to do with minimizing their party's ability to turn out massive crowds than to prevent another attack.

Cheema insisted the government does not want to restrict political activities, but rather minimize the threat of attacks.

Meanwhile, the top officer leading the investigation into the attack on Benazir Bhutto withdrew from the case after she said she had no confidence in him.

When asked about the withdrawal and Ms. Bhutto's demand for international assistance in the investigation, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said he is confident the case will be solved.

"Pakistan is a sovereign country," said Aziz. "We know what we are doing. We don't need assistance. And, at the same time, as I said, we have solved 100 percent of all such cases in the past."

Also Wednesday, Pakistan's election commission formally announced that parliament will be dissolved on November 15, and elections will be held no later than 60 days after that.

This could be the first time in Pakistan's history that a parliament will finish its term.