ISLAMABAD, April 8: The government has finalised the question which will be put to the nation on April 30 for extending the tenure of President Pervez Musharraf for five years.

According to official sources, the question which was being prepared by the think-tanks of the military government, led by General (retired) Tanvir Naqvi, and legal advisers, led by Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, has been finalised and will be made public in a day or so.

The question, which was shown to Dawn, asks the voters: “For the survival of the local government system; establishment of democracy; continuation of reforms; end to sectarianism and fundamentalism; and fulfilment of Quaid-i-Azam’s concept of Pakistan, would you like to elect President General Pervez Musharraf as President of Pakistan for five years?” The question will be in Urdu.

Sources said the time consumed on the referendum may result in “minor” delay in holding of general elections as the Election Commission had been burdened with two assignments of gigantic nature in the span of short time.

When approached to find out if their was any possibility of delay in holding of general elections before October 12, 2002, Chief Election Commissioner Chief Justice (retired) Irshad Hasan Khan acknowledged that tasks assigned to the EC were gigantic but ruled out the possibility of delay.

The CEC said the process of delimitation of the constituencies and other preparations were going on according to plan.

He said though it was hectic the Election Commission was up to the task and its staff was working overtime to complete the delimitation process, finalise electoral rolls and acquire materials required for holding elections.

The CEC further said that under the Supreme Court judgment it was mandatory for the government to return the country to civilian rule before October 12, 2002.

Asked if it was the duty of the Election Commission to hold referendum when the Constitution was silent on the issue, the CEC said it was true that under Article 218-3 of the Constitution, there was no mention that the CEC would hold referendum.

Article 218-3 of the Constitution does not mention that the Election Commission would hold referendum. The relevant provision reads: “It shall be duty of the Election Commission constituted in relation to an election to organize and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law and that corrupt practices are guarded against.”

The CEC, however, justified holding of referendum, saying the CEC was required to perform such functions as required by the Constitution or by “law.”

He said the Election Commission or the Chief Election Commissioner, being the creatures of law, were “duty bound” to perform such functions which were conferred upon it by “law.”

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