Asif Ali Zardari Set to Return as Pakistan’s President After 11 Years

Asif Ali Zardari

Islamabad: Pakistan is gearing up for its presidential election on March 9, as announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday. The election will be held by an electoral college comprising the members of the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies. The main contender for the presidency is former President Asif Ali Zardari, who is backed by a six-party coalition led by the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Zardari, who is the president of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, served as the country’s president from 2008 to 2013. He was the first president to complete a full five-year term in office but also faced allegations of corruption and nepotism. He was succeeded by Arif Alvi of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who is eligible for re-election but has not announced his candidacy yet.

According to the ECP, the candidates for the presidency can file their nomination papers with the returning officers in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta by Saturday afternoon. The scrutiny of the nomination papers will be done by March 4, and the candidates can withdraw their nominations by March 5. The final list of candidates will be published on March 6.

Zardari has been nominated by a coalition of six parties, including the PML-N, the PPP, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Awami National Party (ANP). The coalition is headed by PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif, who is also the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. The coalition claims to have the support of 368 members out of the total 696 in the electoral college, which makes Zardari’s victory almost certain.

Zardari’s return to the presidency is seen as a major political comeback for him and his party, which has been sidelined by the PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Zardari has been critical of Khan’s policies and performance and has accused him of being a puppet of the military establishment. Zardari has also faced several legal cases and investigations against him and his family but has denied any wrongdoing.

Asif Ali Zardari

The presidential election comes amid a political crisis in Pakistan, as the PTI government has failed to secure a majority in the National Assembly after the general elections held on February 8. The PTI and its allies won 93 seats, while the PML-N and its allies won 108 seats. The PPP emerged as the third-largest party with 68 seats. The PTI has been trying to woo independent candidates and smaller parties to form a coalition government but has faced resistance from the opposition parties, who have accused the PTI of rigging the elections with the help of the military and the judiciary. The opposition parties have also announced that they will form a coalition government with Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister