Asif Ali Zardari sworn in as Pakistan president

ISLAMABAD, September 9, 2008 (AFP) – Asif Ali Zardari became Pakistan’s president Tuesday and faced immediate pressure to combat the Islamic militant insurgency that has engulfed the nation in the past year, as well as a struggling economy. Zardari, the controversial 53-year-old widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, was sworn in at a closely-guarded ceremony at the presidential palace in the capital Islamabad.

He secured a large win in a poll among lawmakers Saturday, and is now the 14th president in the short but often turbulent history of the world’s only nuclear-armed Islamic state and frontline US “war on terror” ally.

Zardari — who spent 11 years in jail on a variety of charges ranging from corruption to murder, but was never convicted — succeeds Pervez Musharraf, the former army general who resigned on August 18 under threat of impeachment.

“I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan,” Zardari said, reciting the oath of office in a ceremony broadcast live to the nation, as his three children looked on.

“May Allah Almighty help and guide me, amen,” he concluded, sitting down to loud cheers of “Long live Bhutto,” and “Bhutto is alive”.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai joined government leaders