Pakistan Elects Asif Ali Zardari President for 2nd Time

ISLAMABAD — Lawmakers in Pakistan elected Asif Ali Zardari the country’s new president Saturday, returning him to the largely ceremonial constitutional office for the second time.

The election commission said the 68-year-old widower of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto secured 411 votes from members of the national and four provincial parliaments. His opponent, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, received 181 votes.

Zardari was the joint candidate of the ruling coalition, which is led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N, party.

He previously served as president from 2008 to 2013, when his Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP, ruled the country. He will be sworn in Sunday.

Achakzai was fielded by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s opposition party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, and allies.

An official statement quoted Sharif congratulating Zardari on becoming the president again, saying he “will be a symbol of the strength of the federation.”

The presidential vote followed the February 8 general elections for Pakistan’s national and four provincial legislative assemblies, amid widespread allegations the polls were rigged to enable Sharif’s military-backed PML-N to win the polls to keep Khan’s allies out of power.

Khan, a cricket hero turned prime minister, was ousted from office in 2022 through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence led by Sharif, the then-opposition leader.

The 71-year-old deposed Pakistani leader has since faced scores of legal challenges.

Khan is currently serving lengthy prison terms after having been convicted of corruption, fraudulent marriage and leaking state secrets in the lead-up to the February 8 elections.

Khan denies wrongdoing and accuses Pakistan’s powerful military of being behind what he dismisses as politically motivated and frivolous charges.

The military has directly and indirectly ruled the South Asian nation for more than three decades since Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947. Politicians say army generals interfere in civilian matters even when not in power, charges the security institution denies.

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