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Zardari elected Pakistan president

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS,

Islamabad : Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari was Saturday elected the country’s 13th president, defeating his two rivals from the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) factions with a big majority.

According to results available with the PPP secretariat here, Zardari got 490 votes out of 702 electoral votes from the National Assembly and provincial assemblies, while his rival Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui of PML-Nawaz received 151 votes and Mushahid Hussain Syed of the PML-Quaid that was created by former military dictator Pervez Musharraf could manage only 41.

Ten votes in the national parliament and as many in the provincial assemblies were declared invalid.

Zardari, 50, is widower of assassinated PPP chief and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and belongs to a business family of Sindh.

“I congratulate the nation over this victory. Today it has been proved that PPP is the largest and only party that is present in all the four provinces,” Information Minister Sherry Rehman told mediapersons after the results were announced in the capital.

“From today onwards every step taken in this country will be to strengthen the democracy and to strengthen the country… Zardari is a person who remained behind the bars for 11 long years and who is all out for politics of reconciliation,” she said amid slogans in favour of Zardari and PPP.

The upper house or Senate has 100 members, the National Assembly 342 and each of the four provincial assemblies have 65 votes – three assemblies having only as many voted as the Balochistan assembly, the smallest of the four.

For the Punjab Assembly that has the largest number of legislators, 6.5 members equal to one vote in presidential polls, 2.58 Sindh members equal to one vote, Balochistan’s legislators have one vote each and for North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) 1.90 members equal one vote.

The PML-Q suffered a major shock as its candidate could secure only 34 votes from the National Assembly despite having 94 members, meaning most of its members voted either for Zardari or Siddiqui.

The parliament echoed with slogans of “Jiye Bhutto” (Long Live Bhutto) as the presiding officer announced the results. Several PPP activists cheered their leader along with his two daughters, Bakhtawar and Asifa, who were present in the galleries.

Bakhtawar, 19, was carrying her mother’s portrait and broke into tears when the female members of PPP embraced the two girls and greeted them over their father’s victory.

Outside the parliament complex, hundreds of PPP activists danced to the tunes of drum beating and chanted slogans in support of Zardari. They showered flower petals on Bhutto’s daughters who quickly passed through the crowd to meet and greet their father.

Their only brother and PPP chairperson Bilawal, 20, is a student of law at Oxford and is expected to arrive here Sunday evening.

PML-N chief and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said he had congratulated Zardari and hoped it would be good omen for democracy.

Sharif’s PML-N parted ways with PPP in the coalition government following their differences over restoration of judges sacked by Musharraf.