14 April | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Asif Zardari enters presidency, Shehbaz Sharif captures PM House

Shehbaz Sharif calls Asif Zardari a symbol of strength of federation; expresses hope president will perform his constitutional duties amicably

President Asif Ali Zardari was presented guard of honor at the Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad, a day after he was sworn in as the fourteenth head of the state as the Pakistan People’s Party leader received majority votes of the electoral college, comprising the parliament and provincial assemblies for the historic second time in country’s parliamentary history.

Arriving at the forecourt of the presidency in the horse-driven buggy, Asif Ali Zardari inspected the guard of honor presented by the smartly turned-out contingents of the armed forces after the national anthem. On the occasion, the president shook hands with the officers and staffers of the Aiwan-e-Sadr. Earlier, Asif Zardari had served Pakistan as president during 2008-2013.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Qazi Faez Isa administered oath of the office to President Asif Ali Zardari. Besides outgoing president Dr Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, governors, chief ministers, parliamentarians, political leaders, diplomats, civil and military officials also attended the oath-taking ceremony of the president.

In presidential elections, Asif Zardari secured victory with 411 votes, surpassing Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Chairperson Mahmood Khan Achakzai, who secured 181 votes. Among the 1,035 casted votes, nine were deemed invalid. The Election Commission of Pakistan pointed out 92 vacant seats in 1,185 total seats in the electoral college. Based on the breakdown of votes, out of the votes cast in both the Senate and the National Assembly, Asif Zardari secured 255 votes, while Mahmood Achakzai received 119 votes.

Born on July 26, 1955, in Karachi, Asif Ali Zardari is the son of Hakim Ali Zardari, a tribal chief. He was the first politician to complete a full term in the presidency. In January 2008, he was elected as co-chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party following the assassination of his wife – the late Benazir Bhutto. He served as a member of the National Assembly from 1990 to 1993 and from 1993 to 1996.

Under eighteenth constitutional amendment, Asif Zardari gave away the presidential powers to strengthen parliamentary democracy and bolstered provincial autonomy, coined political reconciliation, helped policies that encompassed freedom of media, revolutionized telecommunications, revived Pakistan’s energy sector, opened Pakistan to foreign direct investment and strengthen state-owned enterprises. The Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) was also his brainchild that became the widely-acknowledged social safety net.

In 2013, Asif Zardari and then Chinese premier Li Keqiang agreed to build an economic corridor between the two countries which gave birth to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The historic milestone of Belt and Road Initiative further enhanced the mutual connectivity between the two countries, opened vistas of progress and development and generated unprecedented employment opportunities to local people. He also helped reset the contours of the country’s foreign policy garnering global support on key issues.

In a message, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that President Asif Ali Zardari will be a symbol of strength of federation. He expressed the hope that Asif Ali Zardari, as president, would perform his constitutional duties amicably as his election to the office was a continuation of the democratic norms. He reiterated that the political parties in the Pakistan Muslim League-N led coalition government would strive for the progress and prosperity of the motherland.

Dr Arif Alvi administering oath of office to Shehbaz Sharif as Prime Minister of Pakistan at Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad
Dr Arif Alvi administering oath to Shehbaz Sharif as Prime Minister in Islamabad

In the first week of March, then president Dr Arif Alvi administered the oath of Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister at the Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad. The swearing-in ceremony was attended by outgoing caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar and his cabinet members, parliamentarians, governors, chief ministers, diplomats and civil and military officials. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto, Aleem Khan, Hamza Shehbaz, and senior officers also attended the ceremony.

Shehbaz Sharif was presented a guard of honor as he arrived at the PM House in Islamabad soon after taking oath of his office. The national anthem was played and a smartly turned out contingent of the three services presented him salute. He inspected the guard of honor. The prime minister was later introduced to the staff of the Prime Minister’s House.