Zardari prepares to be sworn in as Pakistan’s president

September 9th, 2008 - 11:13 am ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 9 (DPA) Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), is set to take the oath of office Tuesday as president of Pakistan after his weekend election, officials said.”Zardari will be sworn in at a ceremony to be held at the President House around 1 p.m. today,” his party’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Tuesday.

Abdul Hamid Dogar, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, is to administer the oath.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and foreign diplomats based in Islamabad were expected to attend the ceremony.

Zardari, 52, the widower of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is replacing Pervez Musharraf, who resigned last month to avoid impeachment by parliament.

He secured more than a two-thirds majority Saturday in the presidential electoral college, made up of the country’s two houses of the national Parliament and its four provincial assemblies.

Babar confirmed Zardari had already moved into the President House Monday along with his two teenage daughters, Bakhtawar and Asifa.

Religious rituals were performed on his arrival, including sacrificing a couple of black goats, a report in the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan said.

After the oath-taking ceremony, Zardari is to hold a press conference where he was expected to spell out his future strategy to deal with problems that include a rising Islamic militancy, record high inflation, severe power shortages and sharply shrinking foreign exchange reserves.

Analysts said one of Zardari’s major challenges would be controlling inflation, which has hit the poor hard but also has sharply reduced the purchasing power of the middle class.

Another of his top priorities, they said, would be to maintain a balance between anti-American public sentiment and the need to support the West in the fight against terrorism.

A suicide bombing next to a police checkpost on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of the militancy-hit North West Frontier Province, killed 35 people and injured more than 80 on the day Zardari was elected.

The attack was carried out by Taliban entrenched in the country’s lawless tribal areas, from where they also target NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan.

US troops have launched several aerial and at least one ground attack on their hideouts over the past three weeks, causing numerous civilian casualties, Pakistani officials and local residents said.

On Monday, two US drones fired multiple missiles in North Waziristan at an Islamic seminary run by Afghan Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and a residence of his relatives, Pakistani officials said.

Haqqani survived, but 20 people were killed and 25 were injured, many of them women and children, local residents said.

The attack has enraged the Pakistani public, which is increasingly raising demands to abandon support for the fight against terrorism and to stop US raids by force.

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