Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday said the option of an early general election "is open" but political elements wanting polls ahead of schedule would have to take up the issue with him after the budget session of Parliament in May.
Gilani made the remarks during a meeting with Muhammad Asim Nazir, a parliamentarian of the PML-Q, which is a partner in the Pakistan People's Party-led ruling coalition.
He "made it clear that the option for early elections is open", said a statement issued by the premier's office.
"All those political elements who want early elections can talk to me but after the budget session," Gilani said.
During an interaction with with Pakistani journalists on Sunday night following his return from Switzerland, where he attended the World Economic Forum, Gilani had hinted at the possibility of the next general election being held ahead of schedule.
He said he would hold consultations on the issue with his government's allies and opposition political parties.
The general election could be held sometime after the passage of the federal budget, Gilani indicated during the media interaction.
"With the passage of the fifth budget, the election year starts and we are of the view that early elections are likely after the budget," he said.
Though the next general election is scheduled for March 2013, several opposition parties, including the PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, have demanded early polls to help the country tide over numerous challenges.
Leaders of the ruling-Pakistan Peoples Party too recently said the general election could possibly be held in October or November. "In politics, no walls are built but bridges are made... We want free, fair and transparent elections and a smooth transition will set a tradition for future," Gilani said on Sunday night.
The federal budget will be presented in May to give parliamentarians more time to debate issues, he said.
President Asif Ali Zardari will address Parliament according to schedule, he said without setting a date for the speech.
"He (Zardari) will become the first President to address a joint sitting of parliament for the fifth time," he added.
Asked about the troubled relations between Pakistan and the US, Gilani said the people would decide the nature of ties between the two sides.
The parliamentary committee on national security's recommendations for revamping ties with the US will be presented to Parliament for a debate, he said.
Following a cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year, Gilani asked the parliamentary committee to frame recommendations for new "terms of engagement" with the US.
The Pakistan government also closed all routes used to transport supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan and forced the US to vacate Shamsi airbase, which was reportedly used by CIA-operated drones.
Replying to a question about Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's offer to provide security to Mansoor Ijaz, the main accuser in the memo scandal, Gilani said: "Shahbaz Sharif's statements cannot provoke me.
"I don't want to criticise the provincial government as I'm the face of the Pakistan government abroad".