Achakzai to Challenge Zardari in Presidential Race with PTI’s Backing

The Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), a coalition of religious parties, has nominated Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the chief of Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), as its candidate for the upcoming presidential election.

Achakzai will face Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and former president, who is the joint candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and other opposition parties that have formed a coalition to challenge the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the Centre.

The SIC announced its decision on Saturday, after consulting with its allies and members. The SIC said that Achakzai was a seasoned politician and a staunch defender of democracy, constitutionalism and parliamentary supremacy.

Achakzai, who hails from Balochistan, won the National Assembly seat from NA-266 constituency in Kila Abdullah-cum-Chaman in the general elections held on February 8. He is also the chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Achakzai has received the support of the PTI, which emerged as the single largest party in the National Assembly with 93 seats, but fell short of a simple majority. The PTI founder Imran Khan, who is currently in jail on corruption charges, has urged his party’s lawmakers to vote for Achakzai in the presidential election.

The PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan confirmed the nomination of Achakzai and said that he was a respected leader who had the trust of the people. He said that the PTI wanted to work with all democratic forces to strengthen the institutions and the federation.

Earlier this week, a PTI delegation, led by Asad Qaiser, met with Achakzai and Akhtar Mengal, the chief of Balochistan National Party (Mengal), to seek their support in raising the voice against the alleged rigging in the general elections. Both Achakzai and Mengal agreed to support the PTI on the issues of electoral reforms, provincial autonomy and development.

According to the latest news, both Achakzai and Zardari have filed their nomination papers for the presidential election on Saturday, the last day for the submission of the papers. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will scrutinize the papers on March 4 and publish the final list of candidates on March 6.

The presidential election is scheduled to take place on March 9, from 10 am to 4 pm, at the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies, which form the electoral college for the election. The president is elected by a secret ballot and a simple majority of votes.

The new president will succeed Dr Arif Alvi, who completed his five-year term on September 8, 2023, but has been serving in an interim capacity until his successor is elected. The oath-taking ceremony for the president’s office will take place after the election with Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa as the administrator.

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