by Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- Election fever is set to grip Pakistan in the coming days following recent statements by some ministers and leaders of the country's ruling party hinting that parliamentary elections could be held months ahead of the original schedule.
Manzoor Wasan, a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), has said that elections will be held in April next year, which means the current national assembly is likely to be dissolved in January, nearly three months ahead of its full tenure.
Some local media have also reported that Pakistan has drawn up a preliminary roadmap under which the National Assembly, or the lower house of Parliament, will be dissolved in January and a caretaker government will be installed, followed by general elections.
In case the National Assembly is dissolved in January, the constitutional deadline for holding elections would be 90 days while the Constitution demands elections within 60 days after the completion of the constitutional tenure of the assembly.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf would, however, take a final decision on the installation of a caretaker, dissolution of the low house and general elections after consulting their coalition partners, the daily Jang reported on Tuesday.
The government has neither denied nor confirmed the report, further fueling speculations that indeed parliamentary elections would be held early.
The current National Assembly is due to complete its tenure on March 16 next year.
Political observers believe that it would be a historic landmark in the country that a democratic government would complete its constitutional tenure for the first time. They said credit goes both to the government and the opposition for the smooth transfer of power.
As the 2013 general elections get closer, political parties have started forging new alliances and opening doors for leaders who plan to switch over to rival parties.
The PPP of President Zardari has already agreed in principle to strike an election deal with Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) to counter its main rival, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), in Punjab, the country's biggest province with 62 percent of the country's population.
Punjab is the main political base of PML-N led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which currently rules the eastern province.
On the other hand, Sharif is also busy in wooing nationalist parties in southern province of Sindh, the stronghold of PPP, and in the violence-hit southwestern Balochistan province in a bid to win majority in parliament.
Sharif has also softened his stance to accept some leaders and former ministers associated with former President Pervez Musharraf who ousted Sharif in the 1999 coup.
Religious parties, which have strong influence in parts of northwest and southwest, are actively forming alliances to win some seats. A defunct six-party alliance, the Mutahida Majlis-e- Amal or MMA (United Action Forum), which had won many national and provincial assemblies seats in the 2002 elections, has now been revived to contest in the polls.
The alliance broke down in 2008 as some of its parties refused to take part in the elections under Pervez Musharraf.
Some other Islamic parties, which formed the Defence of Pakistan Council last year, are now planning to convert the anti-U. S. political alliance into an election alliance, some leaders have said.
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf or Justice Movement led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has emerged as another political force and several key leaders from other parties have joined it in view of its fast growing popularity in opposing U.S. drone strikes in northwest tribal regions. Enditem