World leaders congratulate Pakistan's new leader


Western nations and Pakistan's neighbours are are congratulating Asif Ali Zardari on his election as Pakistan's new President.

Asif Ali Zardari, 53, has overcome more than a decade in jail, corruption charges, exile and the assassination of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, to rise to one of the toughest jobs in international politics.

The leader of the Pakistan People's Party won more than two-thirds of the 700 votes cast by politicians in yesterday's Presidential election.

Mr Zardari says his win is a victory for democracy and congratulated the people of Pakistan.

"Today's Pakistan's Peoples Party has gone over a great road block to complete the democratic process. I congratulate the nation. I congratulate the parliaments," he said.

"To those who would say, that People's Party or presidency would be controversial under our guardianship, I would say, listen to democracy, 99 per cent of the people have spoken."

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe says President George Bush is looking forward to working with the President-elect on the key issues of counter-terrorism and stabilising Pakistan's economy.

Mr Zardari says his slain wife, Ms Bhutto, continues to inspire the party to stand up against oppression.

"It is the philosophy of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in which we believe. She taught us that democracy is the best revenge," he said.

However, opponents of Asif Ali Zardari remain sceptical that he is capable of tackling the big challenges facing him as President.

Mushahid Hussain is a member of the former president Pervez Musharraf's party and he also stood for the presidency.

He says that Mr Zardari needs to focus on Pakistan's problems, including the growing insurgency in the country's north-west.

"We hope that it'll be a new Zardari, a different Zardari," he said.

"Zardari who doesn't repeat the mistakes of the past. And I think the most important issue for Pakistan is that the country needs a healing touch, especially on the war on terror."