Asif Ali Zardari took office as Pakistan's new president today, facing immediate pressure to crack down on Islamic militants and address daunting economic problems. Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai was present at a brief ceremony to swear in the widower of assassinated ex-PM Benazir Bhutto, his presence an imposing reminder of Zardari’s task ahead. "We are in the eye of the storm," Zardari said later.
Karzai said Pakistan's new democratic dawn augured well for both countries. "For bringing stability to two countries, Afghanistan will take many, many steps with you," he told the new president. Zardari has made tough statements against Islamic extremism, and the Pakistani army says it has killed hundreds of rebels. The inauguration of Zardari, 53, completes Pakistan's return to civilian rule after nearly 9 years under Pervez Musharraf.