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Pakistan’s presidential election: Voting begins, Asif Ali Zardari set to win

WorldPakistan's presidential election: Voting begins, Asif Ali Zardari set to win

ISLAMABAD: Voting began on Saturday in the Presidential elections in Pakistan in which Asif Ali Zardari is set to be elected for a second time. Asif Ali Zardari, the 68-year-old joint candidate of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and Sunni Ittehad Council’s candidate Mahmood Khan Achakzai, 75, are vying for the office of president.

The voting began at 10 am and will continue till 4 pm.

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.

According to the Constitution, the president is indirectly elected by an electoral college comprising federal and provincial lawmakers.

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

Zardari, the 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. 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.

Just hours before the presidential elections, Achakzai demanded the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) postpone the polls till the electoral college is completed.

In a letter written to Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, Achakzai stated that the electoral college as “prescribed by law and Constitution” for a presidential election was “still incomplete” because “some reserved seats” in the National Assembly and all provincial assemblies are still vacant.

“…As yet no one was elected on those reserved seats and without nominations and proper election on these seats, 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 constitution,” stated the letter, written by Achakzai.

The PTI-backed presidential candidate added that the electoral college cannot be completed till the seats are filled. He added that till the seats are not filled the presidential polls would be “illegal, unlawful and against the spirit of the Constitution”.

He also mentioned the Peshawar High Court (PHC) stay order on the reserved seats which he believes would give a “clear verdict” in favour of the PTI-backed party.

The parliament buildings and buildings of the provincial assemblies have been designated as polling stations to let the lawmakers vote.

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.

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