Zardari, Asif Ali

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Zardari, Asif Ali

Asif Ali Zardari (ä´sĬf ä´lē zärdä´rē), 1955–, Pakistani politician, president of Pakistan (2008–13), b. Nawabshah. From a wealthy, prominent family, he studied at St. Patrick's College in Pakistan and the London School of Business Studies in England. He married Benazir Bhutto in 1987, and the following year she became prime minister. A member of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led by his wife, Zardari served in the national assembly (1990–96), as a federal minister (of environment and investment; 1993, 1995–96) during Bhutto's prime ministership, and in the Pakistani senate (1997–99).

After Bhutto was dismissed from office in 1990, Zardari was held (1990–93) on several corruption charges but was eventually acquitted. In 1996, when Bhutto's government was again dismissed, Zardari was accused of having taken kickbacks (he had acquired the nickname "Mr. Ten Percent" ) and of having ordered the murder of Bhutto's brother, a political opponent. He was again imprisoned, briefly in 1996 and from 1997 to 2004. Bhutto and Zardari also were convicted (1999) of corruption and embezzlement, but a new trial was ordered in 2001 by Pakistan's supreme court. A Swiss court convicted the couple of money laundering in 2003, but in 2008 Zardari was acquitted on appeal. Both Bhutto and Zardari denied the various charges, denouncing them as politically motivated.

When Bhutto was assassinated in Dec., 2007, Zardari and their 19-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, were named co-leaders of the PPP, but real power resided with the father. In early 2008, President Pervez Musharraf declared an amnesty for crimes committed by politicians, and Zardari was acquitted of charges of corruption and other political crimes allegedly committed from 1988 to 1999. Later that year he also was acquitted of his brother-in-law's murder. Following Musharraf's resignation as president, Zardari was elected to succeed him in Sept., 2008.

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