ISLAMABAD: PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari casts his vote during the presidential election in the National Assembly, on Saturday.—Online
ISLAMABAD: PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari casts his vote during the presidential election in the National Assembly, on Saturday.—Online

• PPP leader gets 411, Achakzai 181 electoral votes
• JUI-F, JI lawmakers boycott election
• Ejaz Chaudhry not allowed to cast his vote
• Achakzai calls poll ‘fair’; Gohar, Asad term it ‘illegal’
• CJP Isa to administer oath to president-elect today

ISLAMABAD: PPP leader and the ruling coalition’s candidate for the head of state Asif Ali Zardari is set to become the president for a historic second time, as he swept the presidential elections by defeating PTI-Sunni Ittehad Council-backed candidate Mehmood Khan Achakzai in a one-sided contest on Saturday.

According to the Elec­tion Commission of Pakis­tan, Mr Zardari sec­ured 411 electoral votes to defeat his opponent and chief of the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Mr Achakzai, who could bag a total of 181 electoral votes but none from the assembly of his home province of Balochistan.

Mr Zardari, who is the only individual to have been elected as head of the state for a second time and one of the four democratically elected presidents to have completed their five-year constitutional term, will be administered oath of the office by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa on Sunday.

Nominated as the joint candidate of the PML-N-led coalition government under a quid pro quo deal that saw PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif being elected as prime minister, Mr Zardari will replace Dr Arif Alvi, who overstayed for five months in the absence of electoral college required to elect a new president after completing his five-year term in September 2023.

JUI-F and JI lawmakers boycotted the voting process. Also, Senator Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah of the Grand Democratic Alliance did not turn up.

Among the PTI lawmakers, Senator Ejaz Chaudhry was not brought to the house despite the issuance of his production order by the chair while senators Azam Swati and Shibli Faraz did not turn up for undisclosed reasons.

Achakzai terms polls fair

Talking to the media outside the Parliament House, Mr Achakzai said it was the first election in the country’s history without any horse-trading, calling it a welcome sign. He said the presidential election was held in a good atmosphere and he expressed gratitude to the PTI friends and their leadership for supporting him.

He said the presidential election was generally fair. For the first time, he poin­ted out, votes were neither bought nor sold in this election. “Some people think that everything can be sold and bought in Pakis­tan, but there are some people who oppose it and I am on the same side who oppose it. This is the beginning of a new era in Pak­istan’s politics,” he said.

However, Mr Achakzai said, the kind of atmosphere prevailing in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as the National Assembly and Senate was not a good sign for future. “I would request Nawaz Sharif to listen to the sensible elements of your party. You may not like them, you will have bitterness with them, but a large number of people of Pakistan have voted for this [Imran Khan’s] party. We have to tolerate and handle each other,” he suggested to the PML-N supremo.

Gohar, Asad call polls ‘illegal’

However, PTI Chair­man Barrister Gohar Ali Khan told the media that Mr Zardari’s presidential victory would be “undemocratic and illegal”. He said it was a violation of the Constitution to take over key offices by “undemocratic and illegal means”. He hit out at political rivals for assuming the offices in the Centre and provinces through “forged and rigged results and stealing their due reserved seats”.

He asserted that the two families (PML-N and PPP) had seized national resources and occupied the democratic institutions (parliament and provincial assemblies).

He deplored that Ejaz Chaudhry wasn’t brought to the house despite the fact that his production order had been issued.

Slogans

Earlier during the polling process, interesting scenes were witnessed in the National Assembly, where members from both houses of parliament cast their votes.

When SIC-backed lawmakers entered the hall, they chanted slogans in favour of their incarcerated leader Imran Khan. Also, the assembly hall resonated with the slogan of ‘mandate thief’ when PM Shehbaz Sharif and his brother Nawaz Sharif entered the hall to vote. In response, PML-N supporters chanted slogans of Ghari Chor, a reference to Mr Khan conviction in the Toshakhana case. Slogans against the PTI deserters who had joined other parties before winning the election were also chanted when they turned up to cast votes.

ECP statement

Later, the ECP in a statement issued on behalf of chief election commissioner and returning officer, said the total number of seats in the electoral college was 1,185 out of which 92 seats were vacant, results withheld or oath was not taken by the returned candidates in the Senate and assemblies.

The remaining 1,093 voters were to exercise their right to vote. Accord­ing to the result of count received from all the presiding officers, the number of voters who have actually exercised their right of vote is 1,044. Of these votes, nine votes were declared invalid by the respective presiding officers. Thus, the total number of valid votes cast is 1,035.

The ECP said Mr Zardari has secured 411 votes and Mr Achakzai has secured 181 votes.

Plea rejected

Just minutes before the start of polling, the ECP had issued an order, rejecting Mr Achakzai’s plea seeking postponement of the presidential poll.

The two-page order issued by a five-member bench stated, “The present petitioner appeared during the scrutiny of his nomination papers bef­ore the returning officer and did not raise any objection to the incomplete electoral college and submitted his nomination papers thereby acquiescing to the election to the office of the president.”

The order points out that clause 3 of Article 41 of the Constitution provides that the president shall be elected in accordance with the provisions of Second Schedule of the members of an electoral college consisting of the member of both houses of the parliament and the members of provincial assemblies.

The order noted that the electoral college comprising the NA, the Senate and all four provincial assemblies are fully functional and have elected the PM and chief ministers.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2024

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