INTRODUCTION: Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is expected to retain power when Pakistan votes on Monday (7 March) in the first general elections to be held under a civilian government.
INTRODUCTION: Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is expected to retain power when Pakistan votes on Monday (7 March) in the first general elections to be held under a civilian government. But according to Reuter, most observers believe he will be returned wit h a reduced majority. Mr. Bhutto was confident of a landslide victory for his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) when he called the elections. However, the main opposition factions set aside their differences at the start of the eight week election campaign and formed the nine-party Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). It has given Mr. Bhutto and his PPP a much tougher fight than they had bargained for.
SYNOPSIS: There were huge crowds in Rawalpindi on Saturday (5 March) for the final campaign meeting of retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who has emerged as the leader of the opposition alliance, and the harshest critic of Mr. Bhutto. The former chief of the Pakistan Air Force would almost certainly become Prime Minister if the opposition came to power. The Pakistan National Alliance has harnessed a considerable amount of anti-government sentiment over rising prices and rampant bureaucratic corruption, and has won support by attacking Mr. Bhutto's one-man style of government and what it terms the high-handedness of the PPP.
As campaigning officially ended on Saturday (5 March) both the PPP and the PNA appealed for peaceful elections. At least 25 people have died so far in campaign violence. Asghar Khan repeated his demand that the army should supervise the polls to ensure they were absolutely free and fair. He urged t he people to be vigilant against any attempts by the civil administration or the PPP to fix the voting, and said that the people would not tolerate a rigged election. He claimed the PNA was sure of winning because the big turnouts at opposition meetings showed the people wanted a change from Mr. Bhutto.