Pakistani lawmakers pick Asif Ali Zardari as president for second time

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, meets with newly election Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, March 9, 2023.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, meets with newly election Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, March 9, 2023. Copyright Associated Press
By Euronews with AP
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Pakistan's lawmakers elected Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday as the country’s president for the second time.

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Pakistan's lawmakers elected Asif Ali Zardari - who was the country's president from 2008 to 2013 - on Saturday as the country’s 14th president for the second time. 

He is the widower of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto and the father of former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Zardari secured 411 votes from national and provincial lawmakers. His opponent, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, who is backed by the party of imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan, received 181 votes.

The Pakistani presidency is a largely ceremonial role. Zardari was the joint candidate of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, or PML-N, party of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his other political allies.

He was the favourite to win on Saturday because of his alliance with Pakistan’s other political dynasty, the Sharifs, and his key role in talks to form a coalition government after the disputed national parliamentary election on 8 February.

Sharif congratulated Zardari on becoming the country's new president with a majority vote.

Zardari “will be a symbol of the strength of the federation,” Sharif said in a statement.

He said that he hoped that Zardari would fulfill his constitutional responsibilities in an efficient manner.

Zardari's rival Achakzai also congratulated him on his victory, saying the vote was held in a free and fair manner. Zardari is known for handling complicated political and other issues in a cool manner.

Last month’s poll was overshadowed by militant violence, an unprecedented mobile phone shutdown and vehement claims of vote-rigging from Khan’s party.

Khan was kicked out of office in 2022 and has faced a number of legal challenges since then. He's currently serving multiple prison terms.

Zardari also has been dogged by criminal cases. He spent 11 years behind bars before becoming president, but was never convicted and has denied any wrongdoing. He has been arrested and indicted on various charges in recent years.

He will take the oath of office on Sunday.

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