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All Eyes on Zardari ahead of Presidential Elections

P.M. Shehbaz Sharif urges allies to approach all voters to secure their support for ruling coalition’s joint candidate

by Staff Report

Photo courtesy PID

Allied parties comprising the ruling coalition—the MQMP, PMLN, IPP, BAP, PPP, PMLQ—on Thursday pledged to support the election of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari for the next President of Pakistan.

Set to take place on March 9 (Saturday), the presidential election is contested between Zardari and Mahmood Khan Achakzai, who is the opposition’s candidate and was nominated by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

Addressing representatives of the allied parties at a dinner hosted at his official residence in Islamabad, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif affirmed that Zardari was the ruling coalition’s joint candidate for the slot of president. “All allies will jointly make efforts to find out solutions to the crisis [facing the country],” he said, hoping Zardari would be elected the next president in the next 2-3 days.

Maintaining the PMLN and allied parties had secured a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, he stressed the mandate of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed independent candidates in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa must also be respected. “Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is our own province. We will try to move forward together,” he said, while adding that being in majority did not mean the ruling coalition should not seek votes from other parties as well.

Noting he had already chaired several meetings on the economy, Sharif underscored how dire the country’s economic conditions were. He noted the circular debt of gas and electricity had crossed Rs. 5 trillion, while losses due to electricity theft were in excess of Rs. 500 billion annually. “The roots of the country’s economy are being weakened under a dedicated move. We have to steer the boat to the shore… If we manage to do so, we will be remembered forever; otherwise, history will not forgive us,” he said, adding he had also directed the expedition of the privatization of PIA.

“The heart testifies that when Asif Zardari becomes the president, there will be coordination to achieve the objectives,” Sharif added, hoping all parties would unite in working for the country.

In his address, Zardari likened the prime minister to physicist Albert Einstein, saying the former would not fear any challenges much like the latter. “There are indeed difficulties, but nothing is impossible. We will develop the country together,” he said, vowing to lend his support to the government whenever it was required. He also urged the government to focus on agriculture, noting neighboring China imported a significant amount of food and Pakistan could avail this by offering exports through expansion.

Zardari’s son, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, also addressed the occasion and recalled that his father had been the most empowered civilian president in history during his last tenure as head of the state. “I have now told him he would be more like the Queen of England [in this tenure],” he joked, referring to the largely ceremonial nature of the president following the adoption of the 18th Amendment.

Earlier, confirming the MQMP’s support for Zardari, PPP spokesperson Faisal Karim Kundi said the joint candidate would secure over 400 votes in the March 9 election.

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