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By-elections in Pakistan marred by clashes

Latest update : 2008-06-26

Rival political activists have clashed in Pakistan during by-elections. Voting in one National Assembly seat, where former prime minister Nawaz Sharif planned to stand, was postponed pending a Supreme Court decision on his eligibility.


ISLAMABAD, June 26 (Reuters) - Rival political activists
clashed in Pakistan on Thursday as by-elections were held for
five National Assembly seats and 25 provincial assembly seats
and several people were wounded, police said.
 

Voting in one National Assembly seat, where former prime
minister Nawaz Sharif planned to stand, was postponed pending a
Supreme Court decision on his eligibility.
 

Violence erupted in at least three constituencies, media
reported, with the worst of it in Punjab province where gunmen
exchanged fire.
 

"Some armed men virtually tried to stop polling. We
arrested four of them and seized some weapons," police office
Mohammad Kamran Khan told reporters outside a polling station
in southern Punjab.
 

The polls close at 5 p.m. (1100 GMT).
 

The by-elections will not effect the outcome of a Feb. 18
general election in which slain former prime minister Benazir
Bhutto's party won 123 seats in the 342-seat National Assembly
and Sharif's party came second with 91.
 

The main party that backs President Pervez Musharraf came a
poor third with 54 seats, undermining the standing of the
unpopular former army chief and important U.S. ally.
 

Bhutto's widower and political successor, Asif Ali Zardari,
has formed a coalition with Sharif but their alliance has been
strained by differences over the fate of judges Musharraf
dismissed last year and over how to handle the president.
 

Sharif, the prime minister then army chief Musharraf ousted
in a 1999 coup, wants to see Musharraf impeached and put on
trial for treason.
 

Zardari has been less confrontational, hoping Musharraf
will step down before too long without the risk of turmoil.
 

Sharif had been expected to win a seat in parliament from a
Lahore constituency until a court in the eastern city ruled on
Monday he was ineligible to stand, mainly on the basis of an
old criminal conviction that Sharif says was politically
motivated.
 

The government lodged an appeal in the Supreme Court on
Wednesday against the ruing and the Supreme Court postponed the
vote in Sharif's constituency.
 

The Supreme Court is due to hold its next hearing into the
case on Monday.
 

Date created : 2008-06-26

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