Asif Ali Zardari (Urdu, Sindhi: آصف علی زرداری) (born 26 July 1955) is the 12th and current President of Pakistan and the Co-Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Zardari is the widower of Benazir Bhutto, who twice served as Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Asif acquired his high school education from Cadet College Petaro. In later years, he moved to the UK for higher education.
Until his marriage with Benazir Bhutto on 18 December 1987, he was an relatively unknown figure on the political scene of Pakistan.
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, Mr Zardari was cleared of five corruption charges only because the courts "abolished the cases against all public office holders", including corruption and illegal use of property under NRO, 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.
Pakistan's Election Commission on 22 August announced that a presidential election would be held on 6 September, and the nomination papers could be filed from 26 August. Many analysts have predicted that if Zardari is elected President, Pakistan's political, economical and financial position will surely suffer heavily.
It has been reported by the The New York Times 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 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 [Chief Martial Law Administrators] 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. After that he addressed the nation and left for America to hold talks with U.S. president George Bush.
After Musharraf's departure Asif Zardari reneged on his pact with his coalition partner, PMLN headed by Nawaz Sharif, to restore the pre-Nov 3rd judiciary. He broke his word saying, that his word is not "Quran or hadeeth.
"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."
Hence, Dogar's oath under PCO was in violation of the Supreme Court ruling quoted above. In the opinion of some the top constitutional experts in Pakistan, Zardari's oath administered by the de facto Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar is not legitimate.
Zardari was accused of money-laundering activities in a US Senate report on private banking and money-laundering.
When the government of Pakistan withdrew cases against Asif Ali Zardari, Daniel Devaud, the Swiss magistrate who brought charges in 1998 against Zardari and Bhutto, then Pakistan's prime minister, said: "The money laundering probe in Switzerland could have been continued. Politely put, it is hard to say there was nothing in the files to indicate corruption."
The attorney general of Pakistan informed Switzerland that neither Zardari nor Bhutto had done anything wrong, and that the original charges were politically motivated.