ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari swept a poll among lawmakers to become the 12th president of Pakistan. He was elected through an indirect electoral college of Parliament. “Democracy talks and everybody hears,” Zardari, who had been the clear favorite, said in a short television broadcast hailing his victory in which he pledged to respect the sovereignty of Parliament. “Parliament is sovereign. This president shall be subservient to the Parliament,” he said.
A beaming Zardari, flanked by daughters Bakhtawar, Asifa and sister Faryal Talpur, said, “I have great challenges to meet. While keeping our promises, our government will make every endeavor to eradicate extremism and terrorism from society, provide security to the people and safeguard the territorial integrity of Pakistan.”
Federal and provincial parliamentarians delivered Zardari the crushing victory his supporters predicted. Official results gave Zardari more than two-thirds of the votes — two opponents sharing the rest — setting the stage for him to be sworn in within days.
Zardari, 53, defeated retired Chief Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, who was backed by former Premier Nawaz Sharif, and Mushahid Hussain, a close aide of former President Pervez Musharraf, whose Aug. 18 resignation triggered the election.
The US and European Union congratulated former Premier Benazir Bhutto’s widower and political heir on his victory. “President (George W.) Bush looks forward to working with him…on issues important to both countries, including counterterrorism and making sure Pakistan has a stable and secure economy,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
Zardari’s victory was enthusiastically welcomed by his party. “It is a historic win. It is a victory for democracy,” said Information Minister Sherry Rehman. “This man suffered jail for more than 11 years for the sake of democracy and today he is elected as the president of the country and it is a sign of the strengthening of democracy.” Security was tight as secret voting began shortly after 10 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m. in the two chambers of Parliament and four provincial assemblies.
Zardari faces a series of challenges as president. Pakistan’s economy is backsliding with high inflation and a volatile political situation contributing to a 40 percent fall on the stock market since January, in a country already reliant on foreign aid.
The election also came amid mounting international concern about the stability of Pakistan, which under Musharraf backed the US after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, and in its subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. As co-chairman of PPP, Zardari already heads a fragile coalition government which, although still in office, recently lost the backing of Sharif’s party.
He now gains wide powers, including the right to appoint leaders of the military. In the southern city of Karachi, capital of Zardari’s home province, supporters waved his party’s tricolor flags, beat drums and danced in the streets, chanting “Zardari is the strongest.”But many ordinary Pakistanis remain unconvinced that Zardari will fulfill his promise. “We want him to make Parliament sovereign and to evolve a clear policy on the war on terror as well as tackle crippling inflation,” said Muhammad Azam, a 33-year-old bank employee from Lahore. “I want to convey to Zardari that he is not a leader by choice, but by chance. Now he has to prove his worth.”
Courtesy- Arab News