ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari, one of the most powerful civilian presidents the country has ever had, stepped down on Sunday, leaving his official residence after a record five years in power.
He retires six years after his wife’s murder in December 2007, and is the first democratically elected president in the history of Pakistan to fully complete his constitutional tenure and be replaced by another elected individual.
His successor, Mamnoon Hussain, is to be sworn in on Monday, September 9.
The 58-year-old widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, arrived at Aiwan-e-Sadr in a traditional carriage amid much pomp and fanfare. He was treated to an honour guard by the armed forces and shook hands with the presidential staff before being driven away from the presidential residence in a black luxury saloon.
He plans to leave for Lahore soon after the ceremony, where he intends to reside at Bilawal House.
Analysts count his government’s completion of a full term in a hostile political environment to his credit, as well as his strong stance against Islamic militancy. However, they say that economic mismanagement hurt Zardari’s popularity as a leader.
Earlier, he had agreed to a constitutional amendment that transferred many of the president’s powers to the prime minister, leaving his position as largely ceremonial.
In an interview broadcast on Saturday, Zardari declared his intention of re-organising his party, which suffered a crushing defeat against the PML-N in the elections held in May. He added that he did not wish to run for Prime Minister in the future.
Presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, also gave in his resignation today, after the honour guard was presented to Zardari. He declared that he would now be spokesman for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).