Zardari to run for Pakistan's presidency

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Islamabad, Aug 23 (UNI) Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has decided to run for presidency as the rift further widened between the ruling coalition over mechanism and time frame for restoration of judges deposed by former President Pervez Musharraf.

''Zardari will be our candidate for office of the President,'' party's deputy secretary general Raza Rabbani told a crowded press conference here tonight.

Mr Zardari, who was appointed co-chairman of the party after Benazir Bhutto's assassination in a suicide attack during election rally in December 2007, saw his PPP emerging as the largest political party in February election.

The PPP Central Executive Committee had yesterday unanimously nominated him to run for the presidency, hours after the election commission fixed September 6 as the date for the presidential elections being held after President Musharraf's esignation early this week.

Gen (retd) Musharraf stepped down amid reports of his impeachment by the ruling coalition comprising Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League, which came to power in February election after defeating the former US ally in the war against terrorism.

''Zardari has conceded to the party's CEC request to contest the presidential election,'' Mr Rabbani said, adding, ''We will inshallah (God willing) be elected as Pakistan's next president on September 6.'' Under Pakistan's constitution, election to the office of the president is held within 30 days after it is fallen vacant. The electoral college for election of the president includes national and provincial assemblies and the Senate.

Gen Musharraf, who seized power in October 1999 after ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had resigned on Monday after the ruling coalition announced to impeach him for ''gross misconduct and repeated violations of the constitution''.

''We have informed our coalition partners about acceptance of party decision by Zardari,'' said Mr Rabbani, who was flanked by Information Minister Sherry Rehman and other senior PPP leaders.

However, Nawaz Sharif, the other main leader in the coalition apparently did not like the PPP's move to hold presidential election on September 6.

''It was premature to announce a date for the election before settling issue of the deposed judges,'' Mr Sharif told reporters in Lahore after meeting a team of the PPP.

The two-time former industrialist premier had yesterday announced after meeting junior coalition leaders that a resolution to restore judges would be tabled in the National Assembly on Monday followed by their reinstatement on Wednesday.

But today, he set a new deadline asking the PPP to inform him whether judges could be restored by Monday or not.

''We have to change the deadline from Wednesday to Monday because when I was announcing Wednesday as the day for restoration of judges, I was not aware that the government has quietly agreed and announced the presidential election schedule,'' he added.

Former Pakistan president Musharraf had deposed these judges after they refused to take a fresh oath of allegiance following imposition of emergency in the country in November 2007.

However, Mr Rabbani was optimistic that the coalition would remain intact.

''Our alliance will remain intact as our government is determined to restore the judges,'' he added but refused to give any timeframe for the purpose.

''I cannot right now give any timeframe for restoration of the judges,'' he said.

UNI XC RJ RAI2333

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