Asif Ali Zardari is president of Pakistan and the Co-Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). He is the widower of Benazir Bhutto, who twice served as Prime Minister of Pakistan. PPP Co-Chairman Senator Asif Ali Zardari was born on July 26, 1955 in a prominent Baloch family from Sindh. He is the son of veteran politician Mr. Hakim Ali Zardari. On his maternal side he is the great-grandson of Khan Bahadur Hassan Ali Effendi, the founder of the first educational institution for Muslims in Sindh. The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was among the prominent students to graduate from the Sindh Madrasa.
Mr Zardari received his primary education at Karachi Grammar School and secondary education at Cadet College Petaro. Other sources say Asif grew up in Karachi and was educated at St Patrick’s School – ironically also the alma mater of Pervez Musharraf. He pursued his further education in London where he studied Business.
Marriage and family
He was married to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in 1987 and was widowed on December 27, 2007 when Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a terrorist attack in Rawalpindi. Ms Bhutto was PPP Chairperson from 1979 until her assassination and was twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan of Pakistan. They have three children, Bilawal (Bilawal: He was born in September 1988. After the death of his mother, Benazir, Bilawal was appointed co-chairman with his father, Asif, of the Pakistan People’s Party), Bakhtawar, born in 1990 and Aseefa, born in 1993.
Party-watchers said Mr Zardari and Ms Bhutto’s marriage had become one of convenience. “They were living their separate lives, but both made sure to keep up appearances,” one close friend says. However, Benazir appreciated her husband’s loyalty, knowing that “despite his failings, he always stood by his family no matter what”, one of her confidants says. Now he takes over the top post in the country, proving testament to his political skills.
Mr Zardari served as a Member of the National Assembly twice (1990-93 and 1993-96), as Federal Minister for the Environment (1993-1996) and as Federal Minister for Investment (1995-96). He was the principal architect of the Benazir Bhutto government’s efforts to transform Pakistan’s energy power sector by encouraging major investment opportunities in power generation. He was also the initiator of the Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline project.
Mr Zardari was elected Senator in 1997 and served in that capacity until the dissolution of the Senate following the military coup of 1999. He was elected Co-Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party in January 2008 following the assassination of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Mr. Zardari’s political career spans two decades spent working closely with Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. During this period he helped formulate policies that expanded the freedom of the media, revolutionized telecommunications and opened Pakistan for foreign direct investment.
During Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s first term in office CNN and BBC were allowed broadcasting rights in Pakistan and mobile telephone services introduced at Mr Zardari’s initiative. During her second term in office, in addition to the independent power producers (IPPs) being allowed in, Mr Zardari encouraged the introduction of FM radio in the private sector.
Mr Zardari was targeted by anti-democratic forces for vilification and persecution and bore the hardship with fortitude. He spent eleven and a half years in prison in conditions often unacceptable by human rights standards, without any charge ever being proven against him. He won election as MNA and as senator while in prison.
Despite many offers from the government of the time to leave Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) or to go abroad under a negotiated political exit, he remained committed to Party goals and continued his fight for justice and the return of a democratically elected civilian leadership. Mr. Zardari was asked by the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the Pakistan People’s Party to serve as Chairman of the Party after the assassination of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Although he was elected unopposed, he nominated his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for that role and instead accepted the job of Co-Chairman of the PPP. After Ms. Bhutto’s death he has remained in the frontlines of shaping a national consensus at the federal level on the politics of reconciliation initiated by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Under Mr. Zardari’s leadership of the Party, the PPP’s candidate for Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan unopposed. This was a singular and unprecedented event in Pakistan’s political history. Mr. Zardari also spearheaded the appointment of Dr. Fehmida Mirza as the first female Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, and continues to support the empowerment of women and minorities in all government policy making.
Today, the PPP government has coalition governments in all of Pakistan’s four provinces. Most recently the PPP, under Mr. Zardari’s leadership, removed General (r) Pervez Musharraf, the unconstitutional President of Pakistan, from office in a historic move, through a series of complex negotiations and political diplomacy. Mr. Zardari united Pakistan’s major political parties and this unprecedented act was accomplished without any violence.
In 1990, Zardari was arrested on charges of blackmail, based on allegations that he attached a bomb to a Pakistani businessman, Murtaza Bukhari, and forced him to withdraw money from his bank account. However The Pakistani government dropped the charges this year, after Mr. Zardari and Ms. Bhutto had been offered an amnesty on their corruption charges. The Swiss authorities said that they could no longer pursue the case and that they would release $60 million of Mr. Zardari’s funds.
A report on private banking and money laundering in the United States, done for the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1999, cited allegations that some of Mr. Zardari’s Citibank accounts were used to “disguise $10 million in kickbacks for a gold importing contract in Pakistan.” The report said that Mr. Zardari had accumulated $40 million in Citibank accounts. He denied the charges, and the head of the gold company identified in the report denied he had paid bribes.
He was kept in custody from 1997 to 2004 on charges ranging from corruption to murder. He was granted bail and released in November 2004 when a judge released Zardari under great pressure. However, he was re-arrested on 21 December 2004 after his failure to attend a hearing in a murder trial in Karachi. Former leader of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, wrote that he found Zardari “a likable rogue” who tried to impress with chatter about his real estate and export deals.
He was famous as Mr. 10% for taking bribes from the people in two terms of Ms. Bhutto as prime Minister.
The British newspaper Daily Telegraph has revealed on August 26, 2008 issue that Asif Ali Zardari is suffering from mental illnesses.
Mr Zardari, co-chair of the Pakistan People’s Party, was diagnosed with a range of psychiatric illnesses, including dementia, major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The illnesses were said to be linked to the fact that he has spent 11 of the past 20 years in Pakistani prisons fighting charges of corruption. He claims to have been tortured during his incarceration.
In March 2007, New York psychiatrist Philip Saltiel found that Mr Zardari’s time in detention left him with severe “emotional instability”, memory loss and concentration problems, according to court documents seen by the Financial Times.
Due to this diagnosis by medical experts, the constitution of Pakistan prohibits any person from running in the presidental elections. Also, if such cases arise during the term of a president, the Parliament and Senate have the right to remove that person