Pakistan’s lawmakers pick Asif Ali Zardari as the country’s president for a second time


ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s lawmakers elected Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday as the country’s president for the second time.

He is the widower of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto and the father of former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Zardari secured 411 votes from national and provincial lawmakers. His opponent, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, who is backed by the party of imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan, received 181 votes.

The Pakistani presidency is a largely ceremonial role. Zardari was previously in the job between 2008 and 2013. Zardari was the joint candidate of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, or PML-N, party of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his other political allies.

He was the favorite to win on Saturday because of his alliance with Pakistan’s other political dynasty, the Sharifs, and his key role in talks to form a coalition government after the disputed national parliamentary election on Feb. 8.

Sharif congratulated Zardari on becoming the country’s new president with a majority vote.

Zardari “will be a symbol of the strength of the federation,” Sharif said in a statement.

He said that he hoped that Zardari would fulfill his constitutional responsibilities in an efficient manner.

Zardari’s rival Achakzai also congratulated him on his victory, saying the vote was held in a free and fair manner. Zardari is known for handling complicated political and other issues in a cool manner.

Last month’s poll was overshadowed by militant violence, an unprecedented cellphone shutdown and vehement claims of vote-rigging from Khan’s party.

Khan was kicked out of office in 2022 and has faced a number of legal challenges since then. He’s currently serving multiple prison terms.

Zardari also has been dogged by criminal cases. He spent 11 years behind bars before becoming president, but was never convicted and has denied any wrongdoing. He has been arrested and indicted on various charges in recent years.

He will take the oath of office on Sunday.

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