|Asif Ali Zardari waves as he leaves the presidential palace after his farewell ceremony in Islamabad
on Sunday. (AFP)
Islamabad, Sept. 8: Pakistan today saw something it has never seen: an elected President waving farewell to power, alive and honoured by the military.
President Asif Ali Zardari became the first elected head of state to complete his five-year constitutional tenure in Pakistan’s chequered political history, marked by frequent military interventions.
He was presented a guard of honour today by a smartly turned out military contingent drawn from the three services before he left for Lahore.
Zardari will be replaced by Mamnoon Hussain, who will take oath as the 17th President of Pakistan at a ceremony in Islamabad on Monday.
Hussain, 73, is a businessman from Karachi, who stood by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif through thick and thin.
Hussain, who has a family business in textiles, holds a master’s degree in business administration and has served as governor of the southern Sindh province in 1999 for a brief period before Sharif's government was overthrown by military dictator Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup.
Analysts believe that the smooth transfer of power to a new government after the May 11 general election and the completion of the five-year tenure by Zardari could be seen as signs of Pakistan’s growing political maturity. Pakistan has remained under military rule for over 35 years — or more than half of its age — since its creation in 1947.
While Pakistan faced daunting problems, including economic mismanagement, power crisis, militancy and corruption during Zardari’s tenure, the credit of restoring the 1973 Constitution goes to him.
He surrendered the sweeping powers, including those of dismissing the elected government and dissolving the National Assembly, that Musharraf had re-incorporated in the Constitution as part of the infamous Legal Framework Order (LFO) in 2003.
However, the alleged Swiss money laundering and other corruption cases will continue to haunt Zardari. One of his own party leaders, Aitzaz Ahsan, was quoted as saying by Geo TV that the National Accountability Bureau, established by Musharraf to try corruption cases involving politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen, might begin pursuing these cases against Zardari, who is also co-chairman of his Pakistan People’s Party.