Why Asif Ali Zardari Matters:
In August 2008, Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party named Zardari for president. The election was scheduled for Sept. 6. Zardari’s past, like Bhutto’s, is riddled with charges of corruption. He is known as “Mr. 10 Percent,” a reference to kickbacks believed to have enriched him and his late wife to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. He’s never been convicted on any of the charges but served a total of 11 years in prison.
Asif Ali Zardari’s Early Life and Family:
Zardari then attended the London School of Economics. Thanks to his father’s wealth, Zardari had a private disco in his own home and became known as a polo-playing playboy who called his ponies the Zardari Four. Zardari is a diabetic.
An Arranged Marriage of Convenience With Benazir Bhutto:
Had it not been for "the political ramifications of every step I take," Bhutto said at the time, "then perhaps this would not have been an arranged marriage, but, in the circumstances, it seemed the only course." Zardari kept to a few words: “I have no interest in politics,” an early but characteristic untruth. The couple had three children.
Zardari Charged With Attempted Murder and Extortion:
Zardari was imprisoned. He contested the charges, calling them politically motivated. Bhutto was prime minister at the time but was ousted in October 1990.
From Prison to Finance Minister to Second Murder Charge:
Zardari also acquired the 365-acre, $8 million Rockwood Estate in Surrey, England, and a $4 million estate in Palm Beach County, Florida. Cases of Zardari and Bhutto corruption piled up fast during her second tenure as prime minister.
A Laundry List of Corruption Allegations:
- Zardari buying almost $1 million worth of jewelry through a Swiss bank account and an American Express card.
- Zardari taking kickbacks from a Dubai gold trader.
- French military contractor Dassault Aviation agreeing to pay Zardari $200 million in exchange for a $4 billion jet fighter deal with Pakistan. (The deal fell apart when Bhutto was booted out of government.)
- In 1996, Zardari was arrested again and charged with murdering his wife’s brother.
From Manhattan’s Upper East Side Back to Politics Again:
Following his wife’s assassination, Zardari claimed her will named him as her successor to the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party. Zardari asked his son, Bilawal, to be the party chairman, though Zardari clearly intended to wield the power. On Aug. 22, the PPP nominated him for the Pakistani presidency vacated by Musharraf earlier that week. The election was set for Sept. 6.