Zardari sacrifices goats to 'ward off evil'

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has a black goat slaughtered at his house almost every day to ward off "evil eyes" and protect him from "black magic", it emerged yesterday.

A spokesman for the President told the Dawn newspaper the goats were slaughtered as an act of Sadaqah – meaning "voluntary charity" in Islam, whereby one gives out money or the meat of a slaughtered animal to the poor to win Allah's blessing and stave off misfortune.

"It has been an old practice of Mr Zardari to offer Sadaqah. He has been doing this for a long time," the spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told the paper.

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country where many of the well-off offer Sadaqah. Though Muslim, many people also follow certain superstitious practices.

Hundreds of goats had been sacrificed at Mr Zardari's house since he was sworn in in September 2008, it is reported.

The President is also believed to have introduced the neem tree at his official residence for its antiseptic qualities. The Dawn newspaper reported that the President's detractors would see in his "new-found religiosity" a sign of nervousness in the face of growing woes. President Zardari, who rose to power after the assassination of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in late 2007, faces a range of problems from Islamist militancy to a stagnant economy and political rivalry.

A Supreme Court ruling last month throwing out an amnesty for the President, several top aides and thousands of political activists triggered a political storm and expectation that Mr Zardari was on his way out.

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