Coming up

Don't miss




2014-07-11 21:47 AFRICA NEWS

Read more


Finally, a good use for new app "Yo"

Read more


The World This Week - 11 July 2014 (part 2)

Read more


The World This Week - 11 July 2014

Read more


Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more


Politics: parties under pressure

Read more


In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Read more


Haute Couture: the hand-stitched clothing made in Paris that sells for the price of small yachts

Read more

  • Ukraine promises retaliation after rebel assault

    Read more

  • The third-place playoff: the World Cup game no one wants to play

    Read more

  • Last of the Ramones, Tommy Ramone, dies aged 62

    Read more

  • Putin revives old Cuban flame and eyes Latin American minerals

    Read more

  • Kerry holds all-night talks with Afghan presidential rivals

    Read more

  • Netanyahu resists international pressure to stop air strikes on Gaza

    Read more

  • Amazon snubs French free delivery ban with one-cent charge

    Read more

  • Cleveland's NBA fans hail 'return of king' LeBron James

    Read more

  • Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

    Read more

  • Magnitude 6.8 quake, small tsunami hit east Japan

    Read more

  • Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting drops extradition appeal

    Read more

  • Kurdish forces take over two oilfields in northern Iraq

    Read more

  • Are French high school students getting smarter?

    Read more

  • Italy’s Trentin wins seventh stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • In pictures: Chanel, Dior and so much more at the Paris couture shows

    Read more

Zardari wins presidency amid violence


Latest update : 2008-09-07

Pakistan's parliament on Saturday elected Asif Ali Zardari, widower of slain ex-PM Benazir Bhutto, as Pakistan's president. Hours earlier, a blast in the city of Peshawar left at least 33 dead and around 80 injured, local police said.

From Mr 10% to President: Read FRANCE 24's article on Asif Ali Zardari's rise to fame


It wasn’t even close in the end. Asif Ali Zardari won 481 out of 702 electoral college votes, a testimony to his mastery of the insider wheeling and dealing needed to secure the support of Pakistan’s political elite.

To win the election, Zardari needed a simple majority of votes from the two-chamber national parliament and Pakistan’s four provincial assemblies.

And yet the astonishing thing is that he has come from almost nowhere. Just months ago, he was happy to play the role of playboy husband to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto or, as one Pakistani commentator put it, third violin in Benazir’s freewheeling orchestra.

Her assassination in December by Islamist militants changed all that. Zardari was propelled to the forefront of Pakistani politics on a tidal wave of emotion

So fast in fact that nobody has really had the time to ponder whether this is a man fit for the job.   


Propelled to the top


Charming, sharp-witted and, if you believe his opponents, as slippery as a snake, 53-year-old Zardari is nothing if not controversial.   

The son of a landlord and an unsuccessful cinema owner, Zardari sealed his entry into politics when he married Benazir Bhutto – daughter of former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – in 1987. Since then he’s courted scandal all the way – earning the soubriquet Mr 10% for the size of the kickbacks he allegedly took from businesses in his years as a minister in Benazir’s governments.

He has served two lengthy spells in prison and faced a litany of charges that range from implication in murder, to corruption, embezzlement and drug trafficking. But nothing has stuck. Zardari dismisses the accusations with a contemptuous curl of his thick moustache – the calculated smears of unscrupulous political opponents.

To get where he is today, Zardari has endured the mother of all roller-coaster rides – and it is probably not over yet.

Not least because he makes enemies just as fast as he makes friends. Take Nawaz Sharif, another ex-prime minister, the leader of the PML-N and his erstwhile ally from the coalition that crushed ex-President Musharraf in last February’s parliamentary elections.

Sharif has pulled out from the alliance and is waiting for an opportunity to take his revenge on what he regards as several acts of betrayal. The way the leader of the PML-N sees things, Zardari made him a number of promises he hasn’t kept – among them, restoration of the judges sacked by Musharraf  last November,  reduction in the powers of the presidency and a commitment not to run in the presidential election.

Nawaz Sharif is a powerful man with the potential to stir up considerable trouble for Zardari if things start to go wrong.

Which they could well do. In truth, his real problems begin now. The question everyone is asking is how can such a controversial figure hope to unite such a large and fractious country at a time of such internal and external instability?


Little room to manoeuvre

The pressures on him will be massive and contradictory.  How to balance, for instance, the demands and expectations of the United States for resolute action against Islamist militants with the deep-seated and growing anti-American sentiment that is sweeping the country? He needs US money, but can he afford to fulfil its demands?

The talk is of a deal with the army.  This, allegedly, will guarantee Pakistan’s most powerful institution with the funding, status and hardware it craves in return for a crackdown against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the North West Frontier and tribal areas, plus a promise to stay out of politics.  

If things are as they seem, that will go down well in Washington so long as the army proves up to the task – which is by no means certain on past performance. A failed counter-insurgency, encouraged by dissident elements within Pakistan’s security services, and coupled with an economy already spiraling out of control, anti-Americanism and a resentful Nawaz Sharif could make Zardari wish he had never gone back to Pakistan.

Date created : 2008-09-06