The widower of Pakistan's assassinated former prime minister Benazir
Bhutto has won elections to become the country's next president. VOA's Barry
Newhouse reports from Islamabad, where Asif Ali Zardari won an estimated 482 of
the 702 votes from lawmakers to become what some believe will be Pakistan's most
powerful civilian leader.
Asif Ali Zardari won the majority of votes in
three of the country's four provincial assemblies as well as in both houses of
In the capital's national assembly hall, supporters of the
Pakistan Peoples Party were jubilant even before the election commissioner
Zardari's two daughters held a portrait of their
mother, Benazir Bhutto, as members of the party she once led congratulated them
on their father's victory.
Zardari's win caps a remarkable political
revival for a man who spent 11 years in prison on corruption and murder charges
- without ever being convicted. His win also marks the formal end to Pakistan's
long departure from democratic rule under former president Pervez Musharraf, who
had seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.
In brief remarks to news
media at the prime minister's house, Zardari paid tribute to his deceased wife
and her father - both of whom were assassinated.
"She taught us how to
live. She taught us how to do politics," he said. "We all intend to follow of
philosophies of the PPP, the philosophies of Shaheed [martyr] Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto and the democracies that they gave their life for."
analysts say Zardari's strong political support in the legislatures and
Musharraf's expansion of presidential powers could make Zardari the country's
most powerful civilian president.
He has pledged to reign in the
presidency's broad powers, which include the ability to dismiss parliament, but
many Pakistanis are skeptical that he will follow through.
Zardari's election victory, he tried to reassure his critics.
reiterate, parliament is sovereign. This president shall be subservient to the
parliament," he said.
Zardari's political opponents congratulated on his
election win Saturday, but also urged him to drop his close affiliation with the
Pakistan Peoples Party. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said he hoped
Zardari's tenure would return the presidency to its impartial
Despite his critics, Zardari's win is the latest in a string of
political successes that drove former president Pervez Musharraf from office and
made his party the most powerful in the country.
Minister and political ally of Zardari, Sherry Rehman, told reporters that
Zardari's victory is a victory for Pakistan's democracy.
Rehman said her
party has won the presidential vote fairly, without using force or abusing the
constitution. She said there are many difficulties ahead and the PPP is the best
party for addressing the country's problems.
Those difficulties include
the country's faltering economy and ongoing battle with Taliban
While lawmakers were voting Saturday, a car bomb blast near a
security checkpoint in Peshawar killed at least 10 people.
Taliban militants later claimed credit for the attack.