The five-year constitutional tenure of President Asif Ali Zardari expires on September 8. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had started the headhunt for Zardari’s replacement soon after coming to power. And sources say, the party has short-listed four names. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday announced that the presidential election will be held on the 6th of August.
Interestingly, none of the four candidates shortlisted by the PML-N belongs to Punjab. “Three of the potential nominees are from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and one from Sindh,” a top party leader told The Express Tribune. The PML-N’s parliamentary board will finalise the candidate within a few days, he added.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaz Aziz, who belongs to K-P, is the frontrunner, a woman lawmaker from the PML-N confirmed to The Express Tribune. “An expert on foreign and economic affairs Sartaj Aziz is the ideal choice. As president, he can also advise the government on important matters,” added another senior PML-N politician.
Aziz was also the frontrunner for the coveted office in 1997 following the resignation of the then president, Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari. But in the end, the PML-N leadership had picked out Justice (retd) Muhammad Rafiq Tarar to replace Leghari.
The two other candidates from K-P are Senator Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Sardar Mehtab Abbasi. Similarly, Ghous Ali Shah was said to be the party’s choice from Sindh. However, sources say the PML-N leadership has serious reservations vis-à-vis Shah following the party’s poor show in the May 11 elections in Sindh. Some PML-N politicians fault Shah for awarding tickets to weak candidates that resulted in the party’s electoral drubbing.
It’s immediately not known whether or not the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – the largest opposition group in the National Assembly – will field a candidate. “So far our party has not taken a decision,” Senator Farhatullah Babar, the spokesperson for the outgoing president, told The Express Tribune. However, he hinted that the opposition could field a joint candidate.
Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – the second biggest opposition party in the National Assembly – has also not started the headhunt. “Our party will take a decision after Imran Khan’s return from London,” PTI’s secretary information Dr Shireen Mazari told The Express Tribune.
Although President Zardari’s constitutional term will end on September 8, a new president is elected in the first week of August under Article 41 (4) of the Constitution which states: “Election to the office of president shall be held not earlier than 60 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of the president in office.”
According to the schedule of the presidential election, which was approved by Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim on Tuesday, the candidates can file their nomination papers on July 24. The scrutiny of the papers will be held on July 26 and the candidates can withdraw their nominations by July 29. The final list of candidates will be published the same day.
Official results will be announced on August 7, a day after the polling. Polling for the presidential election would be held at the Parliament House in Islamabad and at four provincial assemblies in Lahore‚ Karachi‚ Quetta and Peshawar from 10:00am to 3:00pm.
Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Kasi has been appointed presiding officer for balloting at the Parliament House in Islamabad, while the chief justices of the respective high courts have been appointed presiding officers for the four provincial assemblies.
The polling shall be by secret ballot by means of ballot papers containing the names of the candidates in alphabetical order who has not withdrawn, and a person voting shall vote by placing a mark against the name of the person for whom he wishes to vote.
The Electoral College for the presidential election includes both houses of parliament and the four provincial legislatures. Balochistan being the smallest assembly with 65 members is considered as base for one vote. The votes of each of the other legislatures are adjusted accordingly under a formula with Balochistan as base.
The number of votes cast in the Parliament House in favour of each candidate shall be counted. The number of votes cast in a provincial assembly in favour of each candidate shall be multiplied by the total number of seats in the provincial assembly with the smallest number of seats. The number of votes calculated in the manner shall be added to the votes cast by parliamentarians. The total number of seats includes the seats reserved for non-Muslims and women. A fraction shall be rounded off to the nearest whole.
Zardari leaves for Dubai
President Zardari has, meanwhile, left for Dubai on a private visit from where he is scheduled to fly to London and is expected to return home by the end of this month. Senator Babar said the president would meet his children in Dubai from where he would fly to London where one of his daughters is studying. Senator Babar also confirmed that President Zardari would not contest for a second term.
President Zardari has already announced that he will restart political activities after the expiry of his presidential term. Zardari had stepped down as co-chairman of the PPP before the May 11 elections in compliance with a Lahore High Court ruling.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2013.