ISLAMABAD, Sept 4: With the presidential election due on Saturday, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has emerged as the front-runner, although unlike his two rivals he has not travelled outside Islamabad for campaigning and has remained confined to the Prime Minister’s House for two weeks because of “security concerns”.

The other two candidates —PML-N’s Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui and PML-Q’s Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed — are running hectic campaigns despite being fully aware that they stand no chance of winning.

Justice (retd) Siddiqui has so far showed restraint and not issued any statement against his rival candidates.

But Mushahid Hussain is engaged in what has been described as a vitriolic campaign, mostly targeting Mr Zardari, while PPP leaders and ministers are rebutting his allegations and remarks through press conferences and statements.

The PPP leaders are also targeting the PML-N candidate by highlighting his role in the 1997 judicial crisis which led to the ouster of former chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

Banners and posters — mostly carrying pictures of Mr Zardari and late Benazir Bhutto – are seen at different places in the federal capital and other parts of the country.Although the public have no role and no vote in the presidential election, heated debates have been taking place all over the country in social gatherings and meetings.The PPP is planning to hold rallies on Friday although it has officially announced that these are being arranged to “express solidarity” with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani whose vehicle was attacked in Islamabad on Wednesday.

According to a PPP announcement, Mr Zardari has directed various chapters of the party to organise rallies throughout the country.

An important aspect of the presidential election campaign is revival of contacts between the PML-Q and PML-N whose members were united under the leadership of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif until his ouster in a military coup in October 1999.

Both the PPP and the PML-N are trying to woo legislators of PML-Q they earlier described as the king’s party to boost the position of their candidates.

Soon after his nomination as the PML-N candidate, Justice Siddiqui met PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and urged him to withdraw his candidate so that a tough fight could be given to Mr Zardari.

Mr Zardari himself preferred to meet members of parliament and the provincial assemblies at the PM’s House and sent Prime Minister Gilani to the provincial capitals to seek votes for him.

Chaudhry Shujaat and his party’s candidate have visited the four provincial capitals in connection with the campaign.

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