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Zardari elected as Pakistan president

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
Last updated on: September 06, 2008 16:52 IST
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Ruling Pakistan People's Party chief Asif Ali Zardari was on Saturday elected Pakistan's new president, securing a landslide victory in the elections.

As PPP lawmakers and workers shouted slogans like "Jeay Bhutto" (Long live Bhutto) and "Zinda hai Bibi, zinda hai" (Benazir Bhutto is alive), Chief Election Commissioner Qazi Muhammad Farooq announced that Zardari had secured 281 of the 436 votes cast by the two houses of Parliament.

According to the unofficial result declared by Farooq, Zardari's rivals lagged far behind -- Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidate Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddique bagged 111 votes while opposition PML-Q leader Mushahid Hussain Sayed secured 34.

Ten votes were declared invalid.

The electoral college for the presidential poll comprises the Senate and National Assembly, the two houses of Parliament, and the four provincial assemblies. Zardari also swept polling in the assemblies of North West Frontier Province, Sindh and Balochistan.

The 53-year-old widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto secured 107 votes in the 124-member NWFP assembly. Siddiqui bagged 10 votes while Sayed got only three votes. Four votes were rejected.

In the 65-member Balochistan assembly, Zardari secured 59 votes while Siddiqui and Sayed bagged two each. In the 168-strong Sindh assembly, Zardari secured 162 votes.

Counting was still underway in the Punjab assembly, where Sharif's party commands a majority.

Each vote in the two houses of Parliament has a value of one, while the weightage of votes in the provincial assemblies is calculated with a complicated formula.

For example, the 107 votes polled by Zardari in the NWFP assembly will have a weightage of 56 votes. Zardari's daughters Bakhtawar and Asifa were among those who watched the counting of votes in Parliament.

When the result was declared, they shouted slogans along with PPP workers while Bakhtawar waved a portrait of Benazir Bhutto.

PPP workers broke into jubilation in the streets of cities like Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.

The presidential election was necessitated by the resignation last month of former president Pervez Musharraf, who stepped down to avoid impeachment by the PPP-led coalition.

A week after his resignation, the PML-N pulled out of the alliance after accusing Zardari of reneging on promises to restore judges deposed during last year's emergency and to field a non-partisan candidate for the presidential polls.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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