Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been sworn in as the President of Pakistan. The ceremony was presided over by Abdul Hamid Dogar, chief justice of the Supreme Court, in Islamabad. Zardari was elected for the post on Saturday after securing a large win in a poll among lawmakers.
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari during a press conference in Islamabad
In a ceremony broadcast live to the nation, Asif Ali Zardari took the oath of office at the presidential palace in Islamabad. The 53-year-old leader succeeds Pervez Musharraf who resigned last month under threat of impeachment. The heavily- guarded ceremony was attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who also addressed a joint press conference afterwards.
Relations between the two nations have been strained in recent months, following rising insurgency along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border. However at the conference, the two leaders reaffirmed that they would stand together in the fight against terrorism. “We know have we have problems. We shall stand with our neighbours and look the problems in the eye and tell the world that we are bigger than the problems," Zardari said.
Target militant sanctuaries
Karzai, who regularly accused Pakistan of not doing enough to curb cross-border militancy, stressed that the two nations should target militants in their sanctuaries and avoid civilian casualties.
"The war against terrorism will only be won if we have the people with us. In order to have the people with us we must avoid civilian casualties," Karzai said.
Apart from mending ties with Afghanistan, Zardari faces a daunting task of tackling the Islamist insurgency, and dealing with the US, which has recently stepped up military strikes on the Pakistani tribal villages, considered safe havens for Al-Qaeda linke militants. The strikes have caused numerous civilian casualties. Expressing his concerns Zardari told the news conference his government had registered protests to the United States: “Casualties of war are taking place. We cannot deny that innocents are dying".
Another major test for Zardari and his party would be how to tackle fledgling economy and inflation, which has hit the country hard. The Pakistani currency has slumped by more than 20 percent since the beginning of this year. Though he didn’t spell out concrete plans on Tuesday, he did mention that he was committed to liberal economy and that he will take measures to bolster the economy.