Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) has put forward the name of Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the leader of Pashtun­khwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), as their candidate for the upcoming presidential election in Pakistan.

The announcement was made on Saturday by the SIC, endorsing Achakzai to vie for the country’s highest constitutional position against Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman, who is backed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and other allied parties forming a coalition government.

Achakzai, who secured a National Assembly seat from Balochistan’s NA-266 constituency, received backing not only from his party but also from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder, Imran Khan. Despite Khan’s current incarceration in Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail, he urged his party members to support Achakzai’s candidacy.

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In 2014, Khan had made fun of Achakzai in a public rally during his dharna, mimicking the Baloch leader’s shawl with a duppata.

Confirming the nomination, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan affirmed their support for Achakzai in the presidential poll. This move comes following PTI’s efforts to gather political support against alleged electoral irregularities, with a recent meeting between PTI representatives and Achakzai, along with Balochistan National Party (Mengal) chief Akhtar Mengal.

During the meeting, Achakzai expressed his party’s commitment to support any political entity advocating for constitutional supremacy and parliamentary empowerment.

The presidential election, scheduled for March 9, is set to follow a stringent timeline outlined by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The deadline for the submission of nomination papers is today, with scrutiny scheduled to be completed by March 4. Candidates have until March 5 to withdraw their nominations, following which the final list of candidates will be published on March 6, preceding the polling.

The current President, Dr. Arif Alvi, completed his five-year term on September 8, 2023, making him the fourth democratically elected president to do so. However, due to the absence of the required electoral college, he continues to hold office until his successor is elected.

According to constitutional provisions, the president is elected by members of the National Assembly, Senate, and the four provincial assemblies. The oath-taking ceremony for the newly elected president will be administered by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa following the election process.

During his fiery speech yesterday in parliament, Achakzai asked the speaker to have four resolutions passed from the house including, “This parliament announces that there will be no role of Establishment and intelligence institutions in the politics of Pakistan. This parliament will be the representative of internal and external affairs of Pakistani politics. No General will come in between.”

He accused certain individuals of attempting to turn the parliament, representing 220 million people, into a marketplace. He emphasized the importance of upholding the Constitution and resisting any efforts by the establishment to manipulate it and further stated that just as Nawaz Sharif advocated for respecting the vote, Imran Khan has also risen to power through the people’s support.

The PKMAP leader raised concerns about attacks on the parliament, stating that the recent attempt was futile as the people had thwarted it. He called for accountability for those seeking to undermine the democratic process.

The presidential candidate for SIC also criticized the military and intelligence agencies’ involvement in politics, stating that they must refrain from such interference and focus on their designated roles.

In his impassioned speech, Achakzai underscored the importance of honoring judges who did not support martial law by recognizing them as heroes, while suggesting that those who did support such measures should have their salaries revoked.