Asif Ali Zardari (Balochi: زرداری بلوچ ) (Urdu: آصف علی زرداری)
(Sindhi: آصف علي زرداري); born 26 July 1955) is a Pakistani politician and current co-chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party. He served as the 11th President of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013. He is the first ever democratically elected president of Pakistan to have completed his five-year tenure. A Sindhi from a landowning tribe of Hooth Baloch origin, Zardari rose to prominence after his marriage to Benazir Bhutto in 1987, becoming the First Gentleman. Between 1993 and 1996, he held various cabinet positions in the second Bhutto administration including Federal Investment Minister, and Chairperson Pakistan Environmental Protection Council (PAEC).
He was arrested on charges of corruption in late 1996, following the collapse of the Bhutto government. Although incarcerated, he nominally served in Parliament after being elected to the National Assembly in 1990 and Senate in 1997. He was released from jail in 2004. He subsequently went into self-exile in Dubai, but returned in December 2007 after Bhutto’s assassination. As the Co-Chairman of the PPP, he led his party to victory in the 2008 general elections. He spearheaded a coalition that forced Musharraf to resign and was elected President on 6 September 2008.
As president, Zardari had been a consistently strong U.S. ally in the war in Afghanistan, despite prevalent public disapproval of the nation’s involvement in the conflict. In late 2008, his government obtained a three-year multi-billion dollar loan package from the International Monetary Fund in an effort to steer the nation out of an economic crisis. In early 2009, his attempt to prevent the reinstatement of Supreme Court judges failed in the face of massive protests led by Nawaz Sharif, his chief political rival. His achievements included the passage of the 18th Amendment in 2010 which reduced his vast presidential powers to that of a ceremonial figurehead. He also held the honor of being the 1st president to address the joint session of parliament for a record six times. His successor Mamnoon Hussain was elected on 30 July 2013. On 8 September 2013, Zardari became the country’s first president to complete his constitutional term and handed over duties to a democratically elected successor.
Early life and education
Zardari was born on 26 July 1955 in Karachi, Sindh in the Zardari family. He is a Sindhi of Baloch origin, belonging to the Sindhi-Baloch Zardari tribe. He is the only son of Hakim Ali Zardari, a tribal chief and prominent landowner, and Zarrin Zardari.
In his youth, he enjoyed polo and boxing. He led a polo team known as the Zardari Four. His father owned Bambino —a famous cinema in Karachi—and donated movie equipment to his school. He also appeared in a movie, Salgirah, as a child artist. Zardari’s academic background remains a question mark. He received his primary education from Karachi Grammar School. His official biography says he graduated from Cadet College, Petaro in 1972. He went to St Patrick’s High School, Karachi from 1973–74; a school clerk says he failed his final examination there. In March 2008, he claimed he had graduated from the London School of Business Studies with a bachelor of education degree in the early 1970s. Zardari’s official biography states he also attended Pedinton School in Britain. His British education, however, has not been confirmed, and a search did not turn up any Pedinton School in London. The issue of his diploma was contentious because a 2002 rule required candidates for Parliament to hold a college degree, but the rule was overturned by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in April 2008.
Early political career
Zardari’s initial political career was unsuccessful. In 1983, he lost an election for a district council seat in Nawabshah, a city of Sindh, where his family owned thousands of acres of farmland. He then went into real estate
Benazir Bhutto era
Marriage to Bhutto
He married Benazir Bhutto on 18 December 1987. The arranged marriage, done in accordance with Pakistani culture, was initially considered an unlikely match. The lavish sunset ceremony in Karachi was followed by immense night celebrations that included over 100,000 people. The marriage enhanced Bhutto’s political position in a country where older unmarried women are frowned upon. Zardari deferred to his wife’s wishes by agreeing to stay out of politics.
In 1988, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq died in a plane crash. A few months later, Bhutto became Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister when her party won 94 of 207 seats contested in the 1988 elections.
Jail and exile
New York Times report
A major report was published in January 1998 by The New York Times detailing Zardari’s vast corruption and misuse of public funds. The report discussed $200 million in kickbacks to Zardari and a Pakistani partner for a $4 billion contract with French military contractor Dassault Aviation, in a deal that fell apart only when the Bhutto government was dismissed. It contained details of two payments of $5 million each by a gold bullion dealer in return for a monopoly on gold imports. It had information from Pakistani investigators that the Bhutto family had allegedly accrued more than $1.5 billion in illicit profits through kickbacks in virtually every sphere of government activity. It also reported Zardari’s mid-1990s spending spree, which included hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on jewellery. The arrangements made by the Bhutto family for their wealth relied on Western property companies, Western lawyers, and a network of Western friends. The report described how Zardari had arranged secret contracts, painstaking negotiations, and the dismissal of anyone who objected to his dealings.
Citibank, already under fire for its private-banking practices, got into further trouble as a result of the report. Zardari’s financial history was one case study in a 1999 U.S. Senate report on vulnerabilities in banking procedures