Asif Ali Zardari

Former President of Pakistan

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  • In-Country Power
  • International Power
  • Respect
  • Military Strength
  • Intelligence
  • Special Skill: Slippery Snake

Official Stats

  • Official Title: Former President
  • Government: Newly established democracy
  • Years Left in Office: To 2013; re-election possible
  • Political Classification: Center-left
  • Education: No one knows. Not even Zardari.
  • Age: 62 (born July 26, 1955)

Asif Ali Zardari Facts and Information

Important Points

  • Asif Ali Zardari is a very weak leader in charge of a rapidly deteriorating Pakistan
  • Zardari is the husband of the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was likely going to win the election before she was assassinated
  • Zardari has been charged (but never convicted) of dozens and dozens of varying crimes
  • Most of the charges against Zardari are related to rampant corruption; estimates are in the hundreds of millions of dollars of graft in his career
  • Zardari is not looked upon very favorably by the US, the Saudis, the Pakistani army, or even the average Pakistani citizen

The Rundown

Asif Ali Zardari is the current President of Pakistan and leader of a primary political party, the PPP….and he is otherwise known as “Mr. Ten Percent”, which is a reference to his career-long record of corruption, bribes, kickbacks and payoffs. Apparently Mr. Zardari has always required 10% of all government transactions he could get his greasy hands on to be deposited into his personal bank account. But that is just the tip of the icky iceberg when it comes to this dude’s history and current leadership.

Seriously, I’m trying to be as fair and balanced as possible here, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why this guy is power, especially at a time when Pakistan needs strong leadership more than ever before. See, this dude may not be the worst president on the planet, but I must go ahead and forewarn you that he ain’t making the top 1000 political leaders anytime soon either. He is not really a dictator, or a thug, or a tyrant…I think its more that he is simply a corrupt, career con-man/opportunist who through bizarre twists of fortune and fate has finagled his way to one of the top spots of power on the planet. And quite frankly, he is way out of his league.

Okay, let me qualify this scathing condemnation as succinctly as possible. Asif Zardari was born into money, as the son of a wealthy and well-connected Pakistani politician. Hell, that’s strike one already. Leading a privileged life somehow still didn’t equate to building a strong education or reputation…for the life of me, in all my research, I can’t seem to find any proof that this guy actually graduated from anywhere! Supposedly he went to ritzy private schools in Pakistan, and then supposedly he attended the London School of Economics, (where he supposedly was a polo-playing playboy that had a private disco in his dorm room), but no verification of any of his background details can actually be confirmed! Oh well, I guess that happens to lots of Presidents…oh, wait a minute: no it doesn’t.

After failed forays running for public office and real estate development (dudes, this guy couldn’t even win an election in his home state, even with all of his daddy’s money backing him), Zardari then makes what will be his most successful scam move of his entire life: he marries a smart women. In 1987 Zardari wed Benazir Bhutto, who was herself a career politician who chaired the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a center-left political party in Pakistan. This was an arranged marriage, largely seen as benefitting both parties careers/reputations…although I should point that the only real benefit for Bhutto was that having a husband enhanced her political posture in a country where older unmarried women are frowned upon. 

In other words, she just needed a live body to stand next to her at the political rallies and family portraits in order to look good to this very conservative society. Yeah, I think Zardari was qualified for that, since he did have a pulse. He should have stuck to that role…but he didn’t.  He became a very busy boy indeed once the couple started climbing the halls of power, and climb they did…

Because Benazir Bhutto was a very capable political leader that was popular and well-respected in her political party, and Pakistan in general. The evidence for that? In 1988 she became Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister, (and the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, ever)...a position she was to hold twice, from 1988?1990 and again 1993?1996. Why am I spending so much time talking about Bhutto? Because his marriage to Bhutto was the game-changer for Zardari. He would have never, ever, never made it to his level of politics on his own accord.

And he also would not have had access to do so many dirty, devious deeds while his wife was out working! If you thought this guy was pretty much a spoiled, unqualified scam-artist BEFORE he got into the halls of power, let me tell you, he really found his calling for corruption AFTER his wife became Prime Minister. This is where he got his nickname “Mr. 10%.”  This guy has been accused, charged, tried, and imprisoned so many times for so many different crimes, it is impossible to list them all here. A few highlights will suffice:

  • Zardari was charged and arrested in a 1990 attempted-murder and extortion charge stemming from a plot where he and an accomplice allegedly strapped a remote-controlled bomb to the leg of Pakistani-born British businessman and forced him to cash $800,000 in checks.
  • Zardari bought almost $1 million worth of jewelry through a Swiss bank account and an American Express card, via the Pakistani treasury
  • Zardari received a $10 million kickback from a gold bullion dealer in return for a monopoly on gold imports into Pakistan
  • French military contractor Dassault Aviation agreed to pay Zardari $200 million in exchange for a $4 billion jet fighter deal with Pakistan. (The deal fell apart when Bhutto was booted out of government.)
  • The couple built a $50 million ?prime minister?s residence” on 110 acres on an Islamabad hilltop. Zardari also acquired the 365-acre, $8 million Rockwood Estate in Surrey, England, and a $4 million estate in Palm Beach County, Florida. Not bad on a government salary….
  • In 1996, Zardari was arrested again and charged with murder conspiracy of the assassination of his wife?s brother, who was leading a splinter faction of the PPP which was gaining popularity at the time

All of these things occurred—as well as a longer list of money laundering, bank fraud, and misuse of public funds charges—while his wife Bhutto was Prime Minister. Zardari was assigned multiple titles and positions in her government (e.g. Finance Minister, Investment Minister, chief of the intelligence bureau, head of the Federal Investigation Agency), which is how he had access to all of these dealings…using his wife’s political position to further his business deals by charging a 10% commission to get permission for setting up any project or to receive loans.

A 1998 report was published by the New York Times detailing Zardari’s vast corruption and misuse of public funds. Zardari was (personally) largely blamed for the entire collapse of the both the first and second Bhutto administrations, as public outcry against abuses of power and massive corruption led to the dissolution of the government. After the second time Bhutto lost her job, Zardari was arrested in Lahore while attempting to flee the country to Dubai. Damn!

Ready for the Pakistani punch-line in all this Zardari zaniness? He has actually never been officially been convicted of ANYTHING! (Although he has spent 11 years in prison; how the hell does that work?)  He is the absolute most slipperiest, slimiest of scam-artist, possibly of all-time! Hell, not only has he never been convicted, but now he is the President! How is that for negative karma? And how the hell did that happen? Oh, the story becomes even seedier….

After being thrown from office, Bhutto spent years abroad in self-imposed exile, fearing persecution by the Pakistani government and rival political factions. After his release from prison in 2004, Zardari also went into exile, shifting between his homes in New York, London and Dubai. Both returned to Pakistan in 2007 in order to start another round of campaigning to get back into power. And despite all the implications of corruption and fraud of her administrations (and her husband), Benazir Bhutto remained a popular figure and it was looking extremely likely that she was going to become Pakistan’s next President. But then devious disaster struck…

Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007, under mysterious circumstances while in a political rally parade. Asif wasted no time solidifying the family hold on power. On 30 December 2007, Zardari became the co-chairman of the PPP, along with his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is currently studying at Oxford. Zardari has claimed that Bhutto had it in her will that he should take her place as head of the PPP and as the Presidential candidate….hmmm, that sounds awfully shady too. No one has actually seen this document to verify this story. And why would a political office somehow be a hereditary hand-me-down in a supposed democracy? I have no idea, and I’m not sure many in Pakistan do either.

In either case, he did indeed then win the 2008 election for President in his wife’s stead. Maybe it was a sympathy vote? Perhaps. Since he has been in office, I’m afraid to report that he has not done much to turn Pakistan around, and in fact has presided over deteriorating conditions in virtually all levels of Pakistani society. And somehow he has continued to stay in power despite continually pissing off the average Pakistani….you mean it gets worse?
Yep. Pakistan’s economy has gotten worse, terrorism and extremism have gotten worse, and international relations have gotten worse with pretty much everyone. As soon as he took office, the gigantic Marriot Hotel in Islamabad was bombed by Taliban extemists. Weeks later he visited the US and met with Sarah Palin, and declared that he “...might hug her.” First off: ew. Secondly, many pious Pakistanis called for a fatwa against him for such public debauchery. That was his first month in office.

And its been downhill ever since. There were epic floods across most of Pakistan in summer of 2010 creating a humanitarian and economic disaster…Zardari was on a European tour at the time chillin’ out with heads of state in posh hotels; he refused to cut his trip short to return home.  On the foreign relation front, Zardari (like all Pakistani leaders) has had to kiss the ass of the US and keep up the front on the ‘war on terror’ in order to keep getting tons of American aid…and this is deeply unpopular among the Pakistani public.

On top of that, many states just see the guy as a total tool: specifically, Wiki-leaked reports made public that the Saudis think Zardari is a total rotten crook who they really don’t want to do business with.  In essence,  “...the Saudis don’t trust Zardari and see him and other leading Pakistani politicians as corrupt.”  The US relationship with Pakistan is also been going south under Zardari, for many of the same reasons, along with everyone’s assessment that the dude simply does not have enough street cred or support from within Pakistan to get a damn thing done at all, on any front.

Oh! But he did get something done! He managed to have all criminal charges against him and his family thrown out as part of a court ruling which “abolished the cases against all public office holders” under the National Reconciliation Ordinance. Wow. He also divested the office of President of a lot of powers, particularly over the nuclear arsenal; powers which went to the Prime Minister position. So, a weak figure in a struggling nation just made his own position weaker. Umm…..yay?

So what you have here in Pakistan is a stagnant to collapsing economy, rampant corruption, a ‘war on terror’ next door in Afghanistan which is going badly, a non-declared civil war at home as local Pakistani Taliban are trying to overthrow the state, an evolving home base for terrorism for Osama Bin Laden and associates (he is certainly on Pakistani soil), increasing violence against religious minorities, increasing terrorist violence within the state, increasing terrorist violence in the world that has roots in Pakistan, deteriorating relationships with the US and others, an on-going friction with India, a stockpile of nuclear weapons….all that and more, with Mr 10% in command. I finish with how I started: Asif Zardari is not up for this challenge, and his luck is very likely to run out soon.

Crap. Talk about a bleak outlook for the sixth most populous nation on earth. I only give them a 10% chance of surviving this decade intact. In that respect, I guess Mr. 10% is the perfectly crooked candidate to be running the show.

 

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