Asif Zardari elected Pakistan's president with thumping majority

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Islamabad , Sep 6 (UNI) Pakistan Peoples' Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was today elected as the country's 12th president almost 19 days after his predecessor Pervez Musharraf resigned after eight years of tumultuous rule.

Of the total 426 votes in the federal parliament comprising National Assembly and Senate, Mr Zardari secured 281 votes as against 111 by the Pakistan Muslim League (N) candidate Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui and just 34 by the former ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League (Q) candidate Mushahid Hussain in the three-way race.

He also won the election by thumping majority in the provincial assemblies from where the results were awaited.

Mr Zardari is expected to take oath as the President by Monday or Tuesday, Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters after announcement of results.

The PML(N) fielded its own candidate after quitting the ruling coalition last month over differences with the PPP on restoration of judges deposed by former President Musharraf in November last year.

The vote by the two houses of federal parliament and four provincial assemblies, forming the 1,170-member, but 702-vote electoral college came amid growing militancy in the country's tribal regions which have experienced series of missile strikes and a direct raid in a village in South Waziristan tribal area by international troops deployed in Afghanistan.

But Zardari in one of his recent articles published by the Washington Post vowed to work with the US and defeat Taliban insurgency in the country.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in a series of suicide attacks and bomb blasts since military assault on Islamabad's radical Red Mosque in July last year.

Members of the 342-seat National Assembly and the 100-seat Senate cast their votes in Islamabad from 1000 hrs to 1500 hrs in a joint sitting at the Parliament House while those of the four provincial assemblies voted at the same time in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta in the second presidential election in the last 11 months.

Musharraf got himself elected from previous assemblies in October last year for the second term, which was challenged in the Supreme Court.

The former military ruler, who contested and won the election while retaining army chief's office imposed emergency in November last year and sacked dozens of judges when it looked that an 11-member bench of the Supreme Court which heard the legal challenges would overturn his controversial victory.

''We are moving towards a new era of democracy and strengthening of parliament,'' Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters before start of the polling, conducted by the Election Commission.

Mr Zardari was born on 26 July 1955 at Nawabshah in southern Sindh province.

He emerged on the national political scene after marrying slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who served twice as elected Prime Minister of Pakistan.

She was killed in a gun and suicide attack in the garrison town of Rawalpindi in December last year.

An agriculturist by profession, Mr Zardari has three children, Bilawal, Bakhtwar and Aseefa.

He served as member of National Assembly twice in 1990-93 and 1993-96.

He was Federal Minister for Environment and Investment in Benazir Bhutto's second government from 1993-1996 but arrested shortly after ouster of her government for involvement in dozens of corruption cases.

However, he got amnesty under National Reconstruction Ordinance (NRO) that former President Musharraf promulgated as part of a power sharing deal with the PPP, which later collapsed.

He was elected unopposed as chairman of the party after assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

But Mr Zardari he nominated his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for that role and instead accepted the job of Co-Chairman of the PPP.

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