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Page last updated at 10:42 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 11:42 UK

Voices: Pakistan's presidential race

After a rancorous split in Pakistan's ruling coalition, the two main parties are supporting rival candidates in the presidential poll on 6 September. It is widely predicted that Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People's Party and widower of Benazir Bhutto will win, succeeding Pervez Musharraf who resigned last month rather than face impeachment.

The president is elected by an electoral college made up of both houses in the national parliament and the four provincial assemblies. Here, Pakistanis give their views on the election.

UZMA SHARON, 42, SERVICE INDUSTRY, LAHORE

Uzma Ali
Zardari is the only option we currently have. I don't know if he is a good choice but we don't appear to have any other choice - and this is a democracy.

The situation is very unstable. We have been and will suffer in all departments of life because of this. What we need most is some psychological relief for the common man - who is totally stressed out. All our earnings are spent on the basic necessities of life.

Taxes need to be spent on the people and government offices to be more efficient. I don't think most people are really interested in the judges being restored or who is going to be the president.

We don't have a political system. All these politicians now in power are a result of mistakes made by past rulers. We never got a leader in the true sense of the word. Let us see what happens now.

FARRUK MALIK, DOCTOR, 26, KHAIRPUR MIR, SINDH PROVINCE

Farruk Malik
Pakistan is in dire need of new political leadership.

Even if I were given the chance to vote, I do not think there is any suitable candidate.

We are in a state of political turmoil. Crisis after crisis has broken the back of the entire system and it has left the fate of the entire nation in limbo.

Pakistan needs a change but I see nothing changing in the days to come. I think we need political stability and only then we will be able to progress towards economic stability.

But there are serious issues for the new president to deal with, such as militancy in Balochistan, law-and-order in remote areas of Pakistan and, of course, the unwanted surge of religious extremism.

Where I live, everything is carrying on as usual. Everybody knows how the result of this race and so there is no excitement at all.

I believe Mr Zardari is wise enough to lead the nation provided he doesn't revert to type. If he eschews all hints of corruption, he can work for the betterment of this nation and we may be able to progress.

M ALI YAQUB, 23, FINANCE INTERN, KARACHI

M. Ali Yaqub
I support former Chief Justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui [backed by Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party].

The political situation is depressing. We started off well with a coalition being formed and hoping for political stability after the February 2008 elections.

But the situation since then has become even worse and the little stability that the common man had during the previous regime has been done away with

I think that the race for the presidency has become more of a power struggle for the fulfilment of political agendas. The coalition says that the election of a new president is important for stability, and it is, but not as important as restoration of the judges [sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf] in a constitutional manner. I think a strong judiciary has more correlation with stability than the immediate election of a president.

Meanwhile, the economic situation worsens each day. The power shortage issue has seriously damaged the economy and continues to do so. The government is trying to give relief by subsidising but I believe that such short-term measures are bound to back-fire. I would like to see the government address the issues of Pakistan first, especially its long-term development.

ATHAR RAHMAN, STUDENT, NORTH WEST FRONTIER PROVINCE

Athar Rahman
I think the PML-N candidate Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui is the best of all because he is not a party leader - he is a neutral. Secondly and also very importantly putting him into the presidency would ensure a free judiciary.

Pakistan is in a political turmoil because nobody pays real attention to the situation in the country. People are more concerned with their personal disputes. The priority of political leaders should be the nation rather than themselves and their personal vendettas.

I believe the president should find a peaceful way to solve the situation in northern areas and then they should turn their attention to the rapidly disintegrating falling economy of the country.

Here in NWFP people are more worried about the military operations and clashes with Taleban then elections. Most people seem to think that Zardari will easily sweep the board because people think he is cunning.

All we can do is hope for the best even though we haven't seen the situation improve anywhere.

SALEHA KHAN, 24, JOURNALIST, ISLAMABAD

Saleha Khan
If I could, I would most definitely vote for PML-N's candidate, Justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui. He is the best non-partisan candidate suitable for the job of the president. He is middle-class, educated and represents a break from Pakistan's feudal ruling history.

The political situation is the worst it can get. For me, the most important priority is the independence of the judiciary because without this no person or political institution can function properly. I think which is why our country is now counted among the most dysfunctional states in the world.

We have so many issues: inflation, an energy and food crisis, a constantly devaluating currency and the bleeding tribal regions and Balochistan province.

The atmosphere has been one of disappointment. People had big expectations from the ruling coalition. The judges are not restored. It just seems like history is repeating itself.

I don't know if I can be optimistic at a point where resolutions are just a piece of paper, where religion is politicised, where everything is about power, where the government forces are just concentrating on the presidential campaign.

MUHAMMAD HUSSEIN, 24, WRITER, PESHAWAR

Muhammad Hussein
I would like to see PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari elected in the coming presidential election.

This is the right time to bring the country on the right path and to bring the derailed economy back on track. I fear that the collapse of the coalition at this stage would harm the country. Pakistan cannot afford political instability.

I would like to see the government and the president strengthen the parliament. There should be rule of law in the country. We need to provide quality education to the masses, because there is ignorance in the tribal areas which is causing religious extremism and militancy.

Everyone in the area is taking interest in the upcoming presidential elections and there is curiosity among the people that who would be the next president. Everyone is hoping that this election would solve many problems in the country.

I never thought that Asif Zardari would lead the party like he is leading today. His many decisions proved that he is a mature politician. If the present government completes its five years, it could bring the country out of many deadlocks.





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