Pakistan Prez Comes With Lots of Baggage

Bhutto's widower, the prisoner playboy, takes reins tomorrow
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2008 11:51 AM CDT
In this March 9, 2008, file photo, Asif Ali Zardari shares a light moment with journalists prior to a press conference in Bhurban, Pakistan.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Asif Ali Zardari was once merely Benazir Bhutto’s polo-loving playboy of a husband, who was jailed for corruption and suspected of much worse. But tomorrow, he’ll become president of Pakistan. Bhutto’s death made Zardari an almost accidental leader of his party, and friends say his ignominious past is behind him. “He's suffered and he's grown,” one former cellmate tells the Wall Street Journal. “He's become a perfect politician. Give us a chance to deliver.”

But to many, Zardari is still “Mr. Ten Percent,” a nickname he earned for his alleged fondness for kickbacks. “Apart from party loyalists, few have been able to defend” Zardari’s selection, according to Al-Jazeera’s Pakistani analyst. Nearly every newspaper in the country has decried the pick, especially after the Financial Times disclosed that Zardari had been diagnosed with dementia and other mental disorders.