Presidential election likely next month

President Asif Ali Zardari.
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari may continue to hold his office till the expiry of his term on Sept 8, but his successor is likely to be elected in the first week of next month, a senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan told Dawn on Friday.
Retired Justice Riaz Kayani, an ECP member from Punjab, said it was a requirement under Article 41 (4) of the constitution to hold presidential elections by August 8.
When asked if the government had sought a schedule for the elections from the ECP, he said he was not aware of any such request having been made. But, he added, the commission was bound to follow the constitution and the schedule would be issued before July 20.
Article 41 (4) states: “Election to the office of President shall be held not earlier than 60 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of the President in office.” During the days the PPP was in power, the President House worked as a centre of power because President Zardari continued to hold the post of PPP co-chairman.
Before the May 11 elections there were reports that President Zardari would retain the office because his party would be able to secure enough seats in the National Assembly and become part of the ruling coalition. But the PPP suffered almost a crushing defeat in the elections. And with situation having changed Mr Zardari started saying that he would not contest the presidential election.
Informally talking to reporters after a press conference, PPP leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim said the party had not decided about its candidate for the post. “We will definitely announce our candidate as soon as the schedule of the presidential election is announced.”
Meanwhile, President Zardari left for Dubai on Friday on a three-week private visit. He will also go to London and is expected to return to the country towards the end of the month.
He has only eight weeks left in his five-year term (till Sept 8). According to sources, the president will prefer to stay abroad most of the time before the expiry of his term. And there are people who suggest that he may prefer not to return because he is said to have been seriously disturbed by the killing of his chief security officer Bilal Sheikh in Karachi this week.
President’s spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said Mr Zardari had gone to Dubai to meet his children. From there he would go to London where one of his daughters is studying. Mr Babar rejected a perception that the president would not return to the country. “Why he will leave his office even one day before the expiry of his five-year term.”

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