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Sunday, April 21, 2024  
09 Shawwal 1445  

How Pakistan’s president is elected

Not all votes carry equal weight in Pakistan's most expansive election
Former President of Pakistan and President PPPP Asif Ali Zardari cast his vote in a polling station during General Elections 2024. APP
Former President of Pakistan and President PPPP Asif Ali Zardari cast his vote in a polling station during General Elections 2024. APP

The election process for picking a new president in Pakistan is more expansive than the election of the prime minister or many other constitutional positions.

While the prime minister, Senate chairman, and speakers of national and provincial assemblies are elected by a single legislature, the president of Pakistan is voted into power by six houses, e.g., the Senate of Pakistan, National Assembly, and provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

This month, over 1100 lawmakers will participate in the voting process but their votes will not carry equal weight.

Weightage formula

The president represents the federation of Pakistan. Hence, all the provincial assemblies have an equal say in the election of the president.

Under a weightage formula laid out in the second schedule of the Constitution, votes in the provincial assemblies are divided by the total strength of the smallest provincial assembly, that is, Balochistan.

This means 371 votes of the Punjab Assembly will be divided by 65, the total seats in the Balochistan Assembly. It gives us a weightage score of 5.71 after rounding off. In other words, 5.71 votes polled in favour of a candidate in the Punjab Assembly mean a single vote.

Ballots cast in Senate and National Assembly are counted in the usual way, that is, one valid ballot paper cast in favour of a candidate means one vote.

Polling stations

The polling for the presidential election is held at the Parliament in Islamabad and four provincial assemblies in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.

The second schedule of the Constitution says that the chief election commissioner (CEC) will be the returning officer for the election of the presiding. The CEC appoints presiding officers to conduct the polling.

Read: SIC names Achakzai its presidential candidate as election process begins

In March 2024, ECP appointed the chief judges of the high courts in Sindh, KP, Balochistan and Islamabad as the presiding officers. In Punjab, an ECP member was appointed the presiding officer.

 A screenshot from the notification of presiding officer for presidential election 2024
A screenshot from the notification of presiding officer for presidential election 2024

One ballot paper is issued to each of the lawmakers in the Senate, National Assembly and four provincial assemblies.

The name of the candidates is written in alphabetic order on the ballot papers.

The election is held by a secret vote as mandated by the Constitution.

“The poll shall be secret ballot by means of ballot papers containing the names of all the candidates in alphabetical order who have not withdrawn, and person voting shall vote by placing a mark against the name of the person for whom he wishes to vote.”

ECP prints ballot paper books with the counterfoil and each ballot paper is authenticated by the presiding officer with their initials.

The candidate securing the highest number of votes becomes the president of the country.

The result is announced by the CEC who also notifies it to the federal government which issues a notification.

The President of Pakistan administers the oath to the prime minister and many other officials. But do you know who administers the oath of office to the president?

This has been an exam question too. It is the chief justice of Pakistan who administers the oath to the president.

In September 2018, President Arif Alvi was sown in by the then CJP Justice Saqib Nisar. He replaced Mamnoon Hussain from PMLN.

Role of the president

The president is largely ceremonial in Pakistan and functions as the head of the state but not the government.

The oath of office, as laid out in the third schedule of the Constitution, says that the president “will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions.”

However, President Arif Alvi and before him, President Asif Ali Zardari have proven some of the most active presidents in the history of the country.

The office wielded considerable power when Zardari became president in 2008, but he relinquished most of the authority to parliament. Still, he played an active political role.

President Alvi used his ceremonial position to block several moves by the PDM government. His last act was an attempt to block the inaugural session of the new parliament, but he relented at the eleventh hour.

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Arif Alvi

President Asif Zardari

President of Pakistan

election 2024

presidential election

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