Bhutto’s widower Zardari easily elected president of Pakistan

Asif Ali Zardari easily won a parliamentary vote to become Pakistan’s new president despite past allegations of corruption and at a time when the country faces severe tests from a faltering economy and increasingly assertive militants.

Partial results announced by officials after separate votes in the federal and provincial assemblies show that Zardari, the widower of assassinated former leader Benazir Bhutto, won an overwhelming majority of the votes…

Despite the scenes of jubilation, the country’s traditional power brokers – the military, the bureaucracy and the business elite – are aghast at the prospect of the election of Zardari, saddled with his “Mr 10%” image over past corruption allegations.

Zardari, who has voiced support for Washington’s so-called war on terror, will have his finger on the nuclear button, possess the authority to fire and appoint the all-important army chief, and the power to summarily dismiss the government.

Crucially for NATO, the president is also in charge of Pakistan’s tribal territory, the border area with Afghanistan that is used as a safe haven by Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

The question uppermost in my mind is how committed is he to building an independent, democratic Pakistan? The battle for the future of Pakistan should be safely returned to the ballot box.

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