Islamabad: Pakistan president-elect Asif Ali Zardari was sworn in to office on Tuesday, completing a rise to power considered unthinkable before the slaying of his opposition leader wife Benazir Bhutto.
Zardari secured a large win in a poll among lawmakers on 6 September and will become 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.
The inauguration will take place in a closely-guarded ceremony at Aiwan-i-Sadr (President House) in Islamabad around 1pm.
The Afghan president Hamid Karzai will attend the event, in which Pakistan’s chief justice will administer the oath as government leaders, military top brass, judges, diplomats and high-ranking civil servants look on.
A guard of honour comprising the three armed forces will then welcome Zardari on the lawn of the presidential palace, completing a spectacle expected to be broadcast live to the nation.
Security around President House, which is situated in the already high-security zone of Islamabad, has been further fortified ahead of the inauguration, officials said.
Zardari, who has said previously that he expects to be targeted by extremists such as those who killed his wife, will take control of a country riven by Islamic militancy and economic turmoil.
He succeeds Pervez Musharraf, the former army general who resigned on August 18 under threat of impeachment.
The 53-year-old takes office amid mounting international concern about the stability of Pakistan, which under Musharraf backed the United States after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and in its subsequent invasion of Afghanistan.
Billions of dollars of aid flowed to Islamabad in return.
Zardari will speak to reporters later on Tuesday and is expected to outline his vision for Pakistan, including his plans to counter extremism and turn around an economy beset by rampant inflation and a plunging stock market.
As co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Zardari already heads a fragile coalition government which, although still in office, recently lost the backing of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party.
As president, Zardari gains the right to dismiss governments and appoint leaders of the military, which has ruled Pakistan for half of its 61-year existence.