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Asif Ali Zardari sworn in as Pakistan's 14th President

Islamabad, Mar 10 (PTI) Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday took oath as Pakistan's 14th President, a day after the veteran politician staged a remarkable comeback when he was overwhelmingly elected as the only civilian president of the coup-prone country for a second time.

Islamabad, Mar 10 (PTI) Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday took oath as Pakistan's 14th President, a day after the veteran politician staged a remarkable comeback when he was overwhelmingly elected as the only civilian president of the coup-prone country for a second time.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa administered the oath to the 68-year-old Zardari in a small yet formal ceremony at Aiwan-e-Sadr, the Presidential Palace.

Zardari replaces Dr Arif Alvi, who stayed in office for five months after completing his five-year term in September 2023.

The swearing-in ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza among other senior army and civilian officials and diplomats.

The outgoing president Alvi, a senior member of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, also attended the oath-taking ceremony.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Zardari’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, his daughters Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and other family members were present on the occasion.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has congratulated Zardari on his election as the president for the second term.

In a message, Shehbaz Sharif said that the Senate, National Assembly and elected members of all the four provincial assemblies have expressed their confidence in Zardari. He said that the Zardari will be a symbol of the strength of the federation.

This is the second time that Zardari has won the presidency, a record for any civilian. Earlier he served as the 11th president of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013 and is one of the four democratically elected presidents to have completed their five-year constitutional term.

He has been a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan since August 2018.

Co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Zardari was the joint candidate of the ruling alliance and was elected on Saturday after he defeated Mahmood Khan Achakzai, a candidate backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) by a huge margin.

Born in 1955, Zardari was brought up and educated in Karachi. He was married to Pakistan's former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's daughter, Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007.

“Congratulations to all democrats on the swearing in of Asif Ali Zardari as the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, God willing, Asif Ali Zardari will use all his powers as the President of Pakistan for the political, democratic and constitutional stability of the country and the country will be on the journey of development. Will proceed,” the party posted on its social media X handle.

The office of the president is a ceremonial post, and he acts on the advice of the prime minister. But Zardari is expected to play a larger role as his PPP is a key partner of the coalition government.

While the chief ministers of Punjab and Sindh attended the ceremony, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Ali Amin Gandapur, who belongs to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was not present.

Incidentally, almost 12 years ago, Qazi Faez Isa, who was then the Balochistan High Court’s Chief Justice and headed a Commission that investigated what was known as the Memogate scandal for over five months and exonerated Zardari from any direct involvement in the memo scandal.

On Saturday, Zardari secured 411 electoral votes in Parliament and all four provincial assemblies with the backing of allied parties — mainly Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) against Achakzai's 181 electoral votes.

An electoral college comprising lawmakers belonging to federal and provincial assemblies votes for the president.

After the partition in 1947, Pakistan’s first president was Iskandar Mirza who took office on March 23, 1956 after the first constitution was adopted and the country became a republic. Before that the country was led by the governor generals who ruled under the amended India Act of 1935.

In an editorial, the Dawn newspaper noted that Zardari was the country’s first civilian president to complete his tenure and his election as president has made him the first Pakistani to hold that office twice.

'It is evident that his style of politics has kept currency in the corridors of power despite the many sociopolitical changes this country has seen since the last time he occupied the presidency. It is, undoubtedly, a remarkable comeback orchestrated by a sharp political mind,' the editorial commented.

Both Shehbaz and Zardari have returned to their previous roles now and sit at the pinnacle of their political careers, an editorial in The Express Tribune newspaper said.

'Earlier, Zardari was dubbed as an accidental beneficiary entering the presidency. However, this time around, he ensured that the timely wheeling and dealing between the two major political parties – his PPP and the PML-N -- paved the way for his return to the presidency,' it commented.

In line with Zardari’s easy win in the vote involving legislators from Parliament and four provincial assemblies, there are hopes that the duo’s rule will mark a new phase of stability in the country,' it added. PTI SH AMS NPK AKJ AKJ

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