Lahore: Pakistan`s next general election will be held in May, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said Tuesday, offering for the first time a specific timeframe for the landmark polls.
"The general election will be held in May next year. In the presence of a vibrant media and independent judiciary, there is no chance of postponement of the elections," Kaira said during an interaction with senior journalists here.
The Pakistan People`s Party-led government will ensure free and fair polls under an independent interim caretaker set-up and the Election Commission, he said.
In the recent past, several leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari, have said the polls will be held on time after the government completes its five-year term.
The upcoming polls will mark the first transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another in Pakistan`s history.
So far, no elected government has been able to complete its term. Pakistan has been ruled by the military for more than half its history. The PPP-led government is set to complete its tenure on March 16.
If the government completes its term, polls will have to be held within 60 days.
If polls are announced before a government completes its term, they must be held within 90 days.
After the government was troubled by a string of crises last year, including a standoff with the judiciary for reviving graft cases against Zardari and several allegations of corruption, there was considerable speculation that polls would be held ahead of schedule.
During his interaction with the media, Kaira spoke in favour of main opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, saying: "Those who think Nawaz Sharif can be kept away from the political process are living in a fool`s paradise."
He made the remarks in reference to calls for action against Sharif for allegedly accepting money from the military to rig the 1990 election.
The Supreme Court recently directed the government to take action against politicians who received payments in 1990.
The court issued the ruling in response to a petition filed by former air force chief Asghar Khan.
"It would have been better if the Supreme Court had given punishment to the characters involved in the Asghar Khan case," Kaira said.
He questioned the verdict in the case for imposing restrictions on the political activities of President Zardari.
"The President is the product of a political process and he will take part in politics while the Chief Justice is addressing public meetings of lawyers," Kaira said.