Asif Ali Zardari set to be Pakistan’s president for a 2nd time

Asif Ali Zardari poised to become Pakistan's president for a second term
 Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari

Islamabad | Pakistan’s former president Asif Ali Zardari is set to be elected as the 14th president of the country in the election to be held on Saturday.

The new president would replace the incumbent Dr Arif Alvi, whose five-year term ended last year. However, he has continued since the new electoral college was not yet formed.

Zardari, a businessman-turned-politician is the husband of slain Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The 68-year-old co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is supported by the coalition government led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which has the necessary numbers.

This is part of a quid pro quo deal after the February 8 polls delivered a fractured mandate: PPP supported PML-N’s candidate for prime minister’s post and also got to form the government in the Punjab provincial assembly while Zardari got the support of PML-N and his party got to rule the Sindh province.

Zardari, who served as the president from 2008 to 2013, will also be the first civilian to be elected for the second time as president.

He is challenged by Mahmood Khan Achakzai, who is the head of his Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and is contesting from the platform of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), which came to prominence after independent candidates backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) joined it.

The ruling coalition is confident that Zardari will be elected as president for the second time as the parties have a majority in the Senate, National Assembly, Punjab Assembly, Sindh Assembly and Balochistan Assembly. The opposition enjoys a majority only in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has assured that his father Asif Ali Zardari will take care of Punjab’s lawmakers as he does of him.

Speaking to the members of the PML-N-dominated Punjab Assembly, Bilawal said that he was there to ask the parliamentarians to vote for his father in the March 9 presidential election.

“Asif Zardari will take care of you as he takes care of me,” the former foreign minister said while heaping praise on the seasoned politician, who will serve the president’s post for the second time if he wins.

According to the Constitution, the president is indirectly elected by an electoral college comprising federal and provincial lawmakers. The parliament buildings and buildings of the provincial assemblies have been designated as polling stations to let the lawmakers vote.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the polling would be held from 10 am to 4 pm in the Parliament House and the four provincial assemblies.

The PML-N-led ruling coalition has calculated that its candidate Asif Ali Zardari would get more than 400 electoral votes.

As many as 325 members of the National Assembly, 91 senators, 354 members of the Punjab Assembly, 157 members of the Sindh Assembly, 117 members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and 65 members of the Balochistan Assembly are eligible to cast their vote.

Pakistan’s first president was Iskandar Mirza, who took office on March 23, 1956, after the first Constitution was adopted and the country became a republic. Before that, the country was led by the governor generals who ruled under the amended India Act of 1935.

Meanwhile, his predecessor Dr Arif Alvi on Friday was presented a farewell guard of honour as he made way for the new president.

He was elected in September 2018 for five years and his term had already expired but he, as per law, continued working as a caretaker as his successor could not be elected due to the absence of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies, which were dissolved in August 2023, much ahead of the February 8 general elections.

Meanwhile, with less than 24 hours to go for the presidential elections, Achakzai, the candidate backed by Khan and PTI on Friday demanded the postponement of elections on the plea that the electoral college was incomplete.

Achakzai in a letter to the ECP highlighted that there were some reserved seats in the national and provincial assemblies that were vacant as no one was elected to them.

“If the presidential election is conducted as per the schedule that would be a denial of their votes, which otherwise is against the fundamental rights, law and the Constitution,” he stated.

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