Musharraf's Government Discusses Timeline for Pakistan Elections Amid Growing International Pressure

Pakistan's Cabinet on Tuesday discussed possibly delaying crucial parliamentary elections by up to three months after President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, a minister said.

"The issue of holding elections was discussed at length, and after attending the Cabinet meeting I feel that the elections may be delayed by two months," the minister told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "There will not be a delay of elections for longer than three months."

"There is no final decision," he said.

A government spokesman did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment about Tuesday's meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said the government had already decided to delay the elections by at least a year.

"They have postponed the election for one or two years. But they have not announced it as such. I know this from the inside," she told AP. She did not provide details of the source of her information.

Bhutto challenged Musharraf to prove her wrong by going on television to tell the country that the elections would go ahead as planned.

Western allies of Pakistan, including the United States — critical of Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency Saturday that suspended the constitution — are urging him to hold the elections by mid-January as originally planned.

The U.S.-allied military leader has promised to restore democracy, but has yet to commit to a schedule for giving up his position as army chief and holding the vote.

There does not appear to be a unified position among senior Pakistan government officials on the scheduling, with some members of the government seeking a delay of one year in the elections.

The attorney general suggested Monday parliament would dissolve by Nov. 15 and the polls would be held on time two months later, but Aziz, speaking to journalists, left open the possibility for a delay.

"The next general elections will be held according to the schedule or a program that will be finalized after consultation with all the stakeholders," he said Monday.