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ISLAMABAD, Dec 31: Caretaker Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro said on Monday that any decision regarding the election date would be taken after detailed consultation with all concerned, but the Election Commission was the primary institution to decide on the issue on the basis of an assessment of the situation.

Presiding over a meeting of the cabinet, he directed the federal and provincial authorities concerned to take strict action against miscreants.

The cabinet was informed during a briefing on the situation after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto that rioters had caused colossal damage to national assets and the railways had suffered a loss of about Rs12.382 billion.

It was informed that people had faced hardship and the manufacturing, revenue and export sectors had suffered badly but the situation had begun improving after deployment of troops.

Two locomotives were burnt completely and one partially, causing a loss of Rs1.982 billion. The cost of 140 coaches destroyed and 17 damaged was Rs8 billion. The loss caused by damage to the department’s telecommunication and signalling systems in Karachi and Sukkur divisions was of Rs884 million and Rs914 million, respectively. The railways had been facing a shortage of coaches and locomotives even before the incident, the cabinet was told.

Supply of petroleum and edibles to the whole of the country had been affected, telephone exchanges had been burnt and Election Commission offices damaged, it was told.

“The poor people have suffered the most and security must return at the earliest with public support,” Mr Soomro said.

He said he was in consultation with different stakeholders and political parties. “We must remain cool and keep the national interest above all other matters,” he said.

“Any decision regarding any change in date of the election will be taken after detailed consultation with all concerned. The Election Commission is the primary institution to decide about holding elections on the announced date, based on the assessment of the situation on the ground,” he said.

The cabinet was told that criminal elements had taken advantage of the tragedy to loot and plunder and disrupted the lifeline from the south to north of the country. It was informed that the government had made efforts to stop the mayhem but a good deal of damage had been done.

It also reviewed the steps taken by the interior ministry for investigating the terrorist attack on the Pakistan People’s Party leader.