Asif Ali Zardari sworn in as Pakistan’s president for second time

Lawmakers elected Asif Ali Zardari as Pakistan’s new president, returning him to the mainly ceremonial constitutional office for the second time.

Zardari took oath on Sunday (March 10, 2024) to serve as the country’s 14th president. Pakistan’s Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa administered the oath at the presidential palace before civil and military leaders.

The 68-year-old Zardari was the joint candidate of the ruling coalition, which is led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.

Zardari secured 411 votes in the indirect electoral contest held in Pakistan’s parliament and provincial assemblies on Saturday. His opponent who was supported by the Imran Khan-backed Sunni Ittehad Council, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, could only secure 181 votes.

Asif Ali Zardari is the co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the widower of Pakistan’s slain first female prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He also served as president of the country from 2008-13. Over the years, Zardari has faced various criminal charges, including money laundering, and has served prison time. Zardari denied the charges.

On Friday, his predecessor Dr Arif Alvi was accorded a farewell guard of honor. Alvi’s five-year term ended in September last year, but he had to stay in office constitutionally until his successor was elected.

Pakistan’s presidency, which is a five-year term, largely became a ceremonial position after a 2010 constitutional amendment curtailed its authority.

World leaders congratulate President Asif Ali Zardari

Presidents of China and Iran were among the first to congratulate Pakistan’s new president.

China – Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Asif Ali Zardari and underlined his readiness to work with the new president to enhance traditional bilateral friendship and advance pragmatic cooperation in various sectors. President Xi pointed out that China and Pakistan were “good neighbors, good friends, good partners and good brothers”. He said their “iron-clad friendship is a choice of history and a precious treasure of the two peoples”.

Iran – Iranian President Syed Ebrahim Raeesi sent a congratulatory message to Asif Ali Zardari, highlighting the deep-rooted cultural and religious ties between Iran and Pakistan, calling for strengthening the relationship more than before. “As always, and especially in the new era, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to broaden ties with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” he added.

Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman congratulated President Asif Ali Zardari after he was sworn in as Pakistan’s 14th president. “The custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and his highness, the crown prince, congratulates Asif Ali Zardari on the occasion of his election and swearing-in as the president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

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