It is expected that General elections will be held in Pakistan on 8 January 2008. In the wake of state of emergency declared on November 3, 2007 by Chief of the Army Staff Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s Information Minister Tariq Azeem said that elections are now “on the back burner”, with no date set.However, it was later stated they would by held as planned. Musharaff stated on 2007-11-08 that the election would be held by 15 February 2008. He later called for the election date to be on or before 9 January 2008. Even later, he suggested 8 January 2008 as the election date.
Considering the general volatility of the situation, a model code of conduct has been proposed by Citizens Group on Electoral Process (CGEP) to the Election Commission of Pakistan and the political parties. The code of conduct suggests all the stakeholders to agree on a set of rules as early as possible, in order to provide a level-playing field for a fair general election.
There have been concerns from the United States that Pakistan has not been doing enough to assist in the war on terrorism. Musharraf has rejected such claims, stating “The fight against terrorism and extremism, whether it is Al-Qaeda or Taliban, can never succeed without Pakistan’s cooperation and Pakistan is the only country that has delivered the maximum on both. We are tackling them with 30,000 troops. If there is anybody who is not doing enough, it is others who are not doing enough.”Opposition parties, especially the religious Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition, are opposed to Pakistan’s role as ally of the United States in the War on Terrorism.
A number of opposition parties have called for the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf to ensure free and fair elections under a caretaker government. On July 8, 2007, opposition parties issued a declaration of their demands for the elections. The parties included are the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League (N), and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. Most parties opposed to Musharraf have joined together in a loose political alliance called All Parties Democratic Movement; the most notable non-member of this alliance is the Pakistan Peoples Party of Benazir Bhutto.
As Musharraf has stated that the elections will be held under the 2007 Pakistani state of emergency, at least three parties have stated they will boycott such elections, fearing that they would not be free and fair: the Pakistan Muslim League (N), Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehreek-i-Insaaf.
The opposition parties jointly stated that the elections could not be fair, as most opposition candidates were in jail under the state of emergency and thus unable to file nomination papers for the election. On November 23, 2007, PPP members were given the go-ahead to register for the elections, while still reserving the decision to boycott the election.
Imran Khan, the Tehreek-i-Insaaf leader, restated his call for a boycott on November 23, 2007, the day the APDM was to decide on whether to boycott the elections jointly. Upon his return to Pakistan on November 26, 2007, Nawaz Sharif stated he would run in the elections only if the state of emergency was lifted before the polls, and that he would not serve as Prime Minister under Musharraf.
However, Sharif’s candidacy was rejected on 2007-12-03 due to his prior criminal conviction. On 2007-12-10, Sharif and Bhutto finally announced they would not boycott the election, despite their fears that the election would be neither free nor fair.