ISLAMABAD: Pakistani lawmakers on Tuesday began voting for a new president, marking an end to the five-year term of outgoing Asif Ali Zardari whose party lost in May’s general elections.
An official from the Pakistan election commission said that lawmakers in the Senate, National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies have started casting their votes to elect a new head of state.
Mamnoon Hussain, a businessman from the southern city of Karachi and close ally of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is the most likely to replace Zardari.
A long-serving member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N, Hussain addressed a party meeting in Islamabad on Monday.
“Describing the office of president as the symbol of federation, the presidential candidate pledged to serve the country and its people in his capacity as president,” a statement issued by Sharif’s office said.
Zardari’s opposition Pakistan People’s Party has boycotted the election, complaining it was not consulted on bringing the date forward from August 6, and its absence means Sharif’s candidate is certain to win.
Hussain’s loyalty to Sharif and low-profile will shore up the prime minister’s authority and provide a stark contrast to Zardari, considered a sharp political operator behind the scenes.
Hussain first impressed Sharif in 1999 as president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and was made the governor of southern Sindh province.
“He had no political affiliation until 1999 but his polite discourse and professional ability impressed Nawaz Sharif who made him governor of Sindh,” Azhar Haroon, the current president of KCCI, said.