Template:Infobox President Asif Ali Zardari (Urdu, Sindhi: آصف علی زرداری) (born 26 July 1955) is the 11th and current President of Pakistan and the Co-Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Zardari is the widower of Benazir Bhutto, who twice served as Prime Minister of Pakistan. When his wife was assassinated in December 2007, he became the leader of the Pakistan People's Party. He is considered to be among the five richest men in Pakistan with an estimated net worth of US$1.8 billion (2005).
Asif Ali Zardari belongs to a Baloch family from Sindh. He was born in Karachi and is the son Hakim Ali Zardari, head of one of the Sindhi tribes, who chose urban life over rustic surroundings. His mother is from the family of Khan Bahadur Hasan Ali Effendi, who was among the founders of the first educational institution in Sindh, "Sindh Madarsa-tul-Islam Karachi".
Zardari received his primary education from the Karachi Grammar School and his secondary education from Cadet College, Petaro. While a candidate for parliament, a position for which a 2002 rule requires a college degree, Zardari claimed to have graduated from a college in London.
Zadari married Benazir Bhutto on 18 December 1987. In 1988 his wife won the seat of Prime Minister, and Zardari became a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan. He served as investment and environment minister in Bhutto's governments. It was during this time that Zardari's opponents controversially began using the nickname, "Mr 10%."
Bhutto's government lost in the 1990 elections. Zardari soon came under investigation in Switzerland over alleged receipts of kickbacks from two Swiss-based companies. Zardari claimed the charges were political in nature, and in 2008 Switzerland closed the case and released Zardari's frozen assets. The chief prosecutor said he had no evidence to bring Zardari to trial.
When Bhutto returned to office in 1993, Zardari was released from jail and became a government minister. In 1996, after a change of government, Zadari was again arrested. From 1997 to 2004, Zardari was kept in jail on various corruption charges and accusations of murder. Pakistani investigators accused Zardari and his wife Benazir for embezzling as much as US$1.5 billion from government accounts. He was also accused of allegedly plotting the murder of Murtaza Bhutto, the brother of his wife Benazir Bhutto. He was later cleared. Another allegation involved an estate in Surrey which Pakistani press speculated was purchased by Zardari. Zardari was also accused of money-laundering activities in a US Senate in 1999.
A New York psychiatrist found in March 2007 that Zardari's time in jail left him with memory impairments. Zardari claims to have been tortured. When Zardari stood for the Pakistani presidency in 2008, the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said that Zardari had no current mental condition requiring psychiatric help or medication.
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Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007, shortly after returning to Pakistan from exile. On 30 December 2007, Asif Ali Zardari became the co-chairman of the PPP, along with his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is currently studying at Oxford. Bilawal is intended to fully assume the post when he completes his education.
After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Zardari reaffirmed his lack of interest in the prime ministership. Chairman Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif, leader of the PML-N, along with some smaller political parties, joined forces in an electoral coalition that won a heavy majority in the elections and unseated Musharraf's ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q). After the election, he called for a government of national unity, and divided cabinet portfolios among coalition partners on proportionate basis. Asif Ali Zardari and former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on 21 February 2008 that their parties would work together in the national parliament after scoring big wins in the election.
On 5 March 2008, Zardari was cleared of five corruption charges as part of a court ruling which "abolished the cases against all public office holders" under the National Reconciliation Ordinance. He had another trial on the remaining charges on 14 April 2008, when he was cleared under the same NRO.
On 19 April 2008, Zardari announced in a press conference in London that he and his sister, Faryal Talpur, would participate in the by-elections taking place on 3 June and that, if necessary, he would contest to become the country's next Prime Minister, even though his party voted by a 2/3 majority to announce that Yousaf Raza Gillani would be the PM for a five year term.
Zardari, in alliance with Nawaz Sharif, was preparing to impeach president Pervez Musharraf, and a charge-sheet and draft of impeachment had already been prepared, when Musharraf, in accordance with his advisors, resigned from the presidency on 18 August 2008. Chairman Zardari was confirmed by the Central Executive Committee of the PPP as well as endorsed by the rival ethnic party MQM as candidate for the post of President of Pakistan. There was nevertheless strong disagreement among the current coalition partners, and Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party was threatening to leave the coalition as a result. According to the Constitution, elections must be held within 30 days of the previous president stepping down. The electoral college is composed of the Senate, the National Assembly, and the four provincial assemblies.
The New York Times reported that Zalmay Khalilzad, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, had been unofficially advising Asif Ali Zardari. Khalilzad, an Afghan native, is rumored to be flirting with the possibility of returning home to challenge President Hamid Karzai when his term expires next year. Should Khalilzad return home, a good working relationship with Islamabad would be critical.
Zardari was elected president of Pakistan, as Chief election commissioner Qazi Mohammad Farooq announced that "Asif Ali Zardari secured 281 votes out of the 426 valid votes polled in the parliament," In Sindh, Zardari had 62 of the 65 electoral votes while his two main opponents got zero votes; in North West Frontier Province Zardari got 56 votes against 5 by Siddiqui and one by Hussain; in Balochistan, 59 votes while Siddiqui and Hussain got 2 each. However, Zardari did not win the majority in the nation's biggest province, Punjab, where the PML-N's Siddiqui got a clear majority. BBC reported that Zardari "won 481 votes, far more than the 352 votes that would have guaranteed him victory." New York Times said that Zardari would be sworn in "as soon as Saturday night or as late as Monday or Tuesday, diplomats and officials said."
Zardari was challenged by Justice (Retired) Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, a former judge nominated by Nawaz Sharif's PML-N, and Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who was nominated by the PML-Q, which backed Musharraf. According to the Constitution of 1973 presently in vogue (but declared for major amendments by Zardari) the President of Pakistan, who must be a Muslim and a male, is elected by an electoral college composed of members of the two houses of parliament - the 342 seat lower house National Assembly and the 100 member upper house Senate, as well as members of the four provincial assemblies - Sindh, Punjab, North West Frontier and Balochistan. The assemblies have total of 1170 seats, but the number of electoral college votes is 702 since provincial assembly votes are counted on a proportional basis. The new president, who obtains the largest number of votes, will serve for five years as Pakistan's 11th president since 1956, when the country became an Islamic Republic, excluding acting presidents and CMLAs during times of military rule. Voting was in progress at the Parliament House, while the Senate members finished casting their votes.
Zardari was sworn in by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar in a ceremony at the presidential palace on September 9, 2008. He addressed the parliament for the first time on September 20, 2008, but the event was overshadowed by the suicide bomb blast which destroyed the Marriott Hotel, Islamabad. Although Asif Ali Zardari was elected constitutionally, he was administered the oath of office by Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar who took oath as Chief Justice of Pakistan under the Provisional Constitutional Order. Earlier, a supreme court ruling by a 7-member bench of the SC had overturned the PCO. The ruling by the 7-member bench stated: "Appointment of the chief justice or judges of the Supreme Court or chief justices of the high courts under the new PCO would be unlawful and without jurisdiction."
An associate of Bhutto said: "Mr Zardari has an image problem, because of a lingering reputation of corruption, despite not having been convicted of any wrongdoing. He will need to change this image.”
Zardari picked China for first state visit after being elected in September. He went to the United States to attend the U.N. General Assembly. Chinese President Hu Jintao has pledged to work with Zardari to build a stronger political and economic partnership between the two countries.
On September 24 of 2008 while in the United States, Zardari met Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, the U.S. Republican Party's Vice Presidential candidate.  Zardari met with U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at the White House in May 2009 to discuss security issues in the region.
Upon the re-election of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Asif Ali Zardari phoned Dr. Singh and offered his congratulations and an offer to work with the Indian government to address challenges in the region.
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Muhammad Mian Soomro
|President of Pakistan|
2008 – present
|Party political offices|
|Co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party|
2007 – present
With Bilawal Bhutto Zardari