Zardari sweeps presidential poll

Zardari bags 481 out of 702 votes, Siddiqui gets 153, Mushahid 43

By Shakil Shaikh

ISLAMABAD: PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari rose to the highest rung of the political ladder winning the presidential election with a thumping majority on Saturday and becoming the 12th president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Asif Ali Zardari, a 53-year-old Baloch from Sindh, succeeds former president Pervez Musharraf who stepped down after succumbing to political pressure last month.

“Jeay Bhutto…Zinda hai BB, Zinda hai,” shouted pro-PPP leaders from the National Assembly galleries. Bakhtawar and Asifa, two young daughters of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, received congratulations from the top leaders of the party as tears welled their eyes, when the polling results were declared. Bakhtawar was also carrying a portrait of her slain mother.

“This president is subservient to parliament,” announced Zardari after his overwhelming two-thirds majority in the presidential election, in which he captured 481 votes out of 702.

Zardari displayed his superiority in parliament and the provincial assemblies of Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan followed by his closest rival PML-N’s Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, who secured majority votes in the Punjab Assembly. PML-N’s Saeeduzaman Siddiqui and PML-Q’s Mushahid Hussain Sayed later congratulated Zardari on his election as president.

Asif Zardari secured 281 votes, Justice (retd) Saeeduzzaman Siddique bagged 111 votes and Mushahid Hussain Sayed got 34 votes, out of total 436 votes, of which 10 were declared invalid in parliament.

Asif Ali Zardari secured 162 votes in the Sindh Assembly, 123 in the Punjab Assembly, 107 in the NWFP Assembly, and 59 votes in the Balochistan Assembly.

Unofficial results demonstrated a two-thirds majority for Asif Zardari, who secured 481 electoral votes (281 in parliament, 21 from the Punjab, 62 from Sindh, 59 from Balochistan and 56 from the NWFP). Saeeduzzaman Siddique got 153 votes (111 from parliament, 35 from the Punjab, nil from Sindh, 5 from the NWFP, and 2 from Balochistan) and Mushahid Hussain got 43 votes, which showed large-scale defections in the PML-Q, as more than 60 senators and MNAs emerged as turn-coats.

The voting was held through a secret ballot in parliament and the four provincial assemblies simultaneously.

Asif Ali Zardari is likely to take oath of his office as president of Pakistan on September 9, 2008. Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar will administer him oath of office to him at the Aiwan-e-Sadr.

Through his democratic election to the highest office, Zardari has become one of the most powerful civilian leaders in Pakistan’s turbulent 61-year history. Last month, he marshalled a coalition that forced long-time US friend Musharraf to quit as head of state, and the United States did not extend any help to save the former commando from such a humiliation.

“I mean business and will pull Pakistan out of its present state of affairs,” Zardari told The News, “I will establish a war room in the Presidency to hold accountable all the people for the tasks they are assigned.”

He said he would take Pakistan from being a one-item exporting country to at least a three-item exporting country by improving the steel industry and the cement industry. He would also endeavour to make Pakistan self-sufficient in the oil sector.

Zardari also talked about a plan to overcome load-shedding and do something for the betterment of the poor masses.

Zardari, 53, belongs to a prominent Baloch family from Sindh and he is the son of veteran politician Hakim Ali Zardari.

On his maternal side, he is the great-grandson of Khan Bahadur Hassan Ali Effendi, the founder of first educational institution for the Muslims of Sindh. The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was among the prominent students to graduate from the Sindh Madrassa.

Asim Hussain from Lahore adds: As expected, Justice Retd Saeeduzzaman Siddiqi emerged victorious from the Punjab Assembly in the presidential elections on Saturday, bagging 201 votes against Zardari’s 123 and Mushahid Hussain’s 36, while ten votes were rejected.

However, his victory from the Punjab was too small to help him reach closer to the winner Asif Ali Zardari.

The voting continued peacefully for nearly five hours in the fully packed special session chaired by Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court Justice Syed Zahid Hussain. The PML-Q suffered heavily as its original strength of 84 was reduced to 36 and its forward bloc split in favour of the PML-N and the PPP.

Members of the PML-N and the PPP kept raising slogans in favour of their leaders from time to time, prompting the chair to warn them for maintaining order and against forcing him to enforce rules.

The voting was briefly suspended when Zardari’s polling agent and provincial Finance Minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira objected to PML-N’s Zaib Jafar accusing her of displaying her ballot paper before putting it in the ballot box. Zaib Jafar was seen asking one of the staffers of the assembly standing near the ballot box about how to fold the ballot paper, but PPP members alleged she tried to display the stamped ballot paper.

The voting remained suspended for a few minutes during which Justice Saeeduzzaman’s polling agent Rana Mashood and many members from both the parties surrounded the chair trying to convince the chairman about their points of view.

However, the chairman kept the vote with him and resumed the voting, saying the matter would be resolved later. Consequently, the matter was sorted out. The polling was completed at about 3 pm and vote counting began at 3:15 pm. The final result was announced a little before 5pm.

Seven votes out of the ten rejected were cast in favour of Saeeduzzaman Siddiqi and were rejected because they were marked with a tick instead of the cross as prescribed in the rules. Three of them were in favour of Asif Zardari.

Muhammad Ejaz Khan from Quetta adds: PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari got the a thumping majority from the Balochistan Assembly in the presidential election.

Out of a total of 63 Asif Zardari secured 59 votes while two each went to the PML-N’s candidate, Justice (retd) Saeeduzaman Siddiqui and PML-Q’s Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed.

The two members of the assembly who abstained from the polling process were the opposition member Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind and PML-Q’s Tariq Messouri Bugti.

The polling started at 10 am, and the first vote was cast at 10.05 am. The voter was the aged female MPA of the PPP, Ms Samina Raziq.

It was apparent, Asif Ali Zardari had the support of the JUI-F, the BNP-Awami, the ANP, the National Party Parliamentarian, PML-Q’s majority members, independent group, besides his own PPP.

PML-Q’s Sheikh Jaffar Mandokhel was the only member who showed his vote cast in favour of PML-Q’s Mushahid Hussain Syed.

There was no polling agent for the PML-Q’s candidate, Mushahid Hussain Sayed.

Earlier, the session of the Balochistan Assembly was held with the Speaker, Muhammad Aslam Bhotani in the chair.

Syed Bukhar Shah from Peshawar adds; The NWFP lawmakers overwhelmingly voted for Asif Ali Zardari who secured 107 votes in the 124-member provincial legislature.

The PML-N nominee, Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, secured 10 votes, getting one extra vote than the party’s strength in the provincial assembly.

PML-Q’s candidate Mushahid Hussain Sayed secured three votes although it had six MPAs.

Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court Tariq Pervez Khan conducted the poll process as presiding officer.

He declared four votes as invalid, in which two votes of Asif Zardari were rejected on technical grounds while two others polled for Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui were rejected for creating confusing ‘cross mark’.

Before leaving the hall without making any announcement, he took the ballot from the PPP-S MPA, Nargis Samin, when she showed it to the two nominated members of the ruling alliance sitting on both the sides of the polling booth.

The ruling alliance had reportedly directed its members that before casting their votes in the ballot box in front of the presiding officer, they should show their ballots to provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain and Health Minister Syed Zahir Ali Shah, who were deputed to see whether the member had voted for Zardari.

The opposition members had been pointing out the practice to the presiding officer as well as to the media persons present in the galleries.

Contrary to her other colleagues’ practice, PPP-S Nargis Samin after marking her ballot paper, showed it openly on her way. The presiding officer took the ballot from her and kept it in his pocket.

He stopped polling. Later, senior leaders persuaded him to restart polling. Again without issuing any instruction or explanation, the presiding officer invited the women MPA and gave her the ballot paper back.

The PML-N parliamentary leader, Pir Sabir Shah said the government had trampled the sanctity of secret ballot in the presidential elections. He said it had made such arrangements where the members could not exercise their right to vote according to their conscience.

Overall vote position

Candidates Parliament Punjab Sindh NWFP Balochistan Total

Asif Ali Zardari 281 22 63 56 59 481

Saeeduzaman Siddiqui 111 35 Nil 05 02 153

Mushahid Hussain Sayed 34 04 Nil 03 02 43


Courtesy: The News, September 07, 2008


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