ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's former ruling party will boycott the upcoming presidential election, saying Friday that the decision to move the vote forward by a week deprived it of enough time to campaign.
The announcement by the Pakistan People's Party will likely have little impact on the outcome of the election, since many analysts expected the candidate nominated by the current ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, to win.
The election comes at a time when Pakistan's government is grappling with how to address the country's many problems, including pervasive electricity shortages, a stuttering economy and a bloody Taliban insurgency.
Pakistan's largely ceremonial president is not elected by popular vote, but by lawmakers in the Senate, National Assembly and the assemblies of the four provinces. The PML-N defeated the PPP in national elections in May, securing a solid majority in the National Assembly and Pakistan's most populous province, Punjab.
"We are boycotting the presidential election, and we are doing it because we had no other option," said Raza Rabbani, who was nominated by the PPP to run as its candidate in the presidential election. "We were not given enough time to do our campaign."
Pakistan's election commission originally set the election date as August 6. This week the Supreme Court agreed to change the date to July 30 in response to concern by the ruling PML-N that lawmakers would be on the traditional pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia during the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Rabbani complained that the court changed the date without hearing arguments from the PPP.
The term of the current president, President Asif Ali Zardari, expires in early September. The PML-N has nominated Mamnoon Hussain, a former governor of southern Sindh province, as its candidate for president.
On Thursday, Pakistan extended refugee status for over a million Afghans in the country until 2015, the government said in a written statement.
Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees dating back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan three decades ago. But many Pakistanis have become increasingly frustrated with the length of time the Afghans have stayed and would like them to leave.
Pakistan originally said their refugee status would expire at the end of 2012 and then extended it for several months as they figured out a new policy. Refugee status allows Afghans to get a government ID card that they use for everyday activities like banking or registering for school.
Pakistan has said there are 1.6 million registered and 1 million unregistered Afghans in the country. The extension would not affect unregistered Afghans, who are considered illegal residents.
Many refugees can't consider returning to Afghanistan anytime soon, saying their homeland is still too violent and desperately poor.