Brown warns against Pakistani poll delay

Bhutto at last pre-election address
Bhutto at last pre-election address

Gordon Brown has urged Pakistan to press ahead with scheduled elections in the aftermath of the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Mr Brown argued free, fair and secure elections will represent the "single biggest obstacle" to terrorists seeking to divide the nation.

Writing in Pakistan's Daily Jang newspaper, the prime minister repeated calls to continue with planned elections, arguing last week's murderous events must not deflect the country's leaders from the pursuit of democracy.

He wrote: "A strong, representative democracy in Pakistan will defeat terrorism and extremism, show the path to a more stable, prosperous future, and stand as a lasting memorial to the life's work of Benazir Bhutto.

"We owe it to her memory to strive together to achieve that goal."

Ms Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was killed on Thursday after a suicide bomber fired shots before blowing themselves up following a pre-election rally.

The British government was swift to condemn her murder. Gordon Brown has already spoken to Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf by phone and urged him to avoid any "significant delay" in holding elections.

The Liberal Democrats, however, cautioned against opposing a short delay in the elections, planned for January 8th.

Foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey said there was a "strong" case for a short postponement to give the main political parties the chance to reflect and urged Britain to support a delay if Pakistanis think it is in the best interests of democracy.

Mr Davey said: "Supporters of a democratic Pakistan must recognise that an election 10 days after this terrorist outrage could add to the instability and chaos, not end it.

"Instability in a nuclear state is what the terrorists want. The world must stand by Pakistani democrats to help them unite to deny the terrorists the chaos they seek.

"Any new election timetable that restores stability whilst ensuring the transition to democracy will not be postponed indefinitely should receive the strong backing of the British government."

The British government has also been asked by the PPP to conduct an investigation into Ms Bhutto's death, along with the United Nations.

Foreign secretary David Miliband has offered British help to an inquiry, but said Britain has no reason to doubt the Pakistani government's account of how Ms Bhutto died.


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