Asif Ali Zardari elected Pakistan's 14th President

Asif Ali Zardari, 68, was the joint candidate of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)

March 09, 2024 06:05 pm | Updated March 10, 2024 06:40 am IST - Islamabad/Lahore

File photo of Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari. He was elected as the Pakistan’s 14th President becoming the head of state for second time.

File photo of Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari. He was elected as the Pakistan’s 14th President becoming the head of state for second time. | Photo Credit: AP

Asif Ali Zardari was overwhelmingly elected as the 14th President of Pakistan on March 9, becoming the only civilian president of the coup-prone country for a second time.

Mr. Zardari, the co-chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party, was the joint candidate of the ruling alliance of the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

His rival, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, is the head of his Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP). He was fielded by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and backed by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

Editorial |Old beginning: On Pakistan politics

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Qazi Faez Isa will administer oath to President-elect Zardari on Sunday at the President House.

“Asif Ali Zardari is the first civilian president in the history of Pakistan who was elected for a second term,” the PPP posted on X soon after the election results were announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Mr. Zardari, 68, received 255 votes while his 75-year-old opponent got 119 votes in the National Assembly and the Senate.

The new president was elected by the electoral college of the newly elected members of the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies, which formed the electoral college.

In the Sindh Assembly, where Mr. Zardari’s PPP is at the helm, he bagged 58 votes while he also swept the Balochistan Assembly votes bagging all the 47 votes polled there.

In the Punjab assembly where the PML-N has formed the government, Mr. Zardari polled 43 votes while Achakzai got 18 votes.

In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly, where SIC/PTI has the government, Mr. Achakzai got 41 votes while Mr. Zardari received just 8.

“The total number of seats in the electoral college was 1,185 out of which 92 were vacant […],” the ECP said. “The remaining 1,093 voters were to exercise their right to vote.” The election commission highlighted that 1,044 votes were cast of which nine were declared invalid. “Thus, the total number of valid votes cast is 1,035,” it said.

A businessman-turned-politician, Mr. Zardari is the husband of slain Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Mr. Zardari has been haunted by his shady past due to his alleged involvement in cases of mega corruption during the two terms of his wife as prime minister, when he earned the derogatory nickname of ‘Mr 10 per cent’ for allegedly getting his share of bribes in development projects.

He was implicated in many cases of corruption and spent several years behind bars, even facing custodial violence, but he was neither convicted nor lost his trademark smile, and, ultimately, he was cleared in all cases.

As he starts his second term in office, the country faces a battered economic and political system with a greater need for reconciliation than any time before, and Mr. Zardari’s innate ability to bring people with clashing ideas to the table would be put to the test.

He may have to play a role in bringing about a reconciliation between the new government and jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s PTI which has claimed that their mandate was stolen in the February 8 elections.

Mr. Zardari 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.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan’s PTI called Mr. Zardari’s election as the President of Pakistan “unconstitutional and unacceptable” and urged the people to hold peaceful protests across the country against poll robbery on Sunday.

Mr. Khan has already claimed the February 8 polls to have witnessed the ‘Mother of All Rigging’ and called his rivals the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as “mandate thieves”.

“On the one hand, the newly elected President Zardari will ride to the highest constitutional position on coattails of the votes of mandate thieves and, on the other, the electoral colleges were incomplete,” PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan said in a statement.

He said the vote of the unelected members, who took fake oaths on the stolen mandate, for the president “was completely unconstitutional and unacceptable.” However, Mr. Achakzai, after losing the presidential election to Mr. Zardari, said that the presidential election was generally fair.

“The most unusual thing about this election was that the first time it has happened votes were neither bought nor sold,” he said while speaking to reporters.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is also the President of PML-N party, congratulated Mr. Zardari on securing the position of President for the second term. The prime minister acknowledged that the elected members of the National Assembly, Senate, and the four provinces had demonstrated their confidence in Mr. Zardari through their votes.

Mr. Shehbaz expressed confidence that President-elect Mr. Zardari would serve as a symbol of the federation’s strength, emphasising the anticipation that Mr. Zardari would discharge his constitutional duties with diligence and commitment.

He noted that Mr. Zardari’s election marked a continuation of democratic values, emphasising the commitment of coalition parties to collaborate for the development and prosperity of Pakistan.

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