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Asif Ali Zardari آصف علی زرداری born 26 July 1955) Asif Ali Zardari is a Pakistani politician and the former co-chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party. He served as the 11th President of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013, the first president born after Partition.
The son of Hakim Ali Zardari, a landowner from Sindh, Asif Ali Zardari rose to prominence after his marriage to Benazir Bhutto in 1987, becoming the First Gentleman after his wife was elected Prime Minister in 1988. When Bhutto’s government was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990, Zardari was widely criticized for involvement in corruption scandals that led to its collapse. When Bhutto was reelected in 1993, Zardari served as Federal Investment Minister and Chairperson Pakistan Environmental Protection Council in her second administration. Following increasing tensions between Bhutto’s brother Murtaza and Zardari, Murtaza was killed in a police encounter in Karachi on 20 September 1996. Bhutto’s government was dismissed a month later by President Farooq Leghari, while Zardari was arrested and indicted for Murtaza’s murder as well as corruption charges.
Although incarcerated, he nominally served in Parliament after being elected to the National Assembly in 1990 and Senate in 1997. He was released from jail in 2004 and went into self-exile to Dubai, but returned when Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007. As the new Co-Chairman of the PPP, he led his party to victory in the 2008 general elections. He spearheaded a coalition that forced military ruler Pervez Musharraf to resign, and was elected President on 6 September 2008. He was acquitted of various criminal charges the same year.
As president, Asif Ali Zardari remained a strong U.S. ally in the war in Afghanistan, despite prevalent public disapproval of the United States following the Raymond Davis incident and the Nato attack in Salala in 2011. Domestically, Zardari achieved the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 2010, which constitutionally reduced his presidential powers. His attempt to prevent the reinstatement of Supreme Court judges failed in the face of massive protests led by his political rival Nawaz Sharif. The restored Supreme Court dismissed the PPP’s elected Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani for contempt in 2012, after Gillani refused to write to the Government of Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against Zardari. Zardari’s tenure was also criticised for mishandling nationwide floods in 2010, and growing terrorist violence. Following multiple bombings of Hazaras in Quetta in early 2013, Zardari dismissed his provincial government in Balochistan.
Towards the end of his term, Zardari recorded abysmally low approval ratings, ranging from 11 to 14%. After the PPP was heavily defeated in the 2013 general election, Zardari became the country’s first elected president to complete his constitutional term on 8 September 2013. His legacy remains divisive, with political observers accusing his administration of corruption and cronyism. The Zardari-led PPP continues to form the provincial government in Sindh.