Outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari says that after overseeing the first-ever democratic transition of power in Pakistan and relinquishing presidential powers to parliament, he is leaving the presidency as a satisfied man.
“Democratic transition to power means strengthening of democracy and I’m confident that Pakistan will be the ultimate winner,” said President Zardari while speaking at a farewell dinner he hosted for journalists at the Presidency on Monday. “I’ve no regrets. I’m exiting the Presidency with honour and dignity.”
President Asif Zardari will step down on September 8 after completing his five-year constitutional term. PML-N leader Mamnoon Hussain, who won the July 30 presidential election, will step into Zardari’s shoes.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will extend complete support to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in tackling the challenges like terrorism and economic recovery, Zardari told journalists.
The PPP lost the May 11 elections to the PML-N and is now the main opposition party in parliament. “We [PPP] accepted the elections despite our reservations,” he said. “But at the same time it is also our democratic right to criticise wrong decisions of the government.”
Speaking about the performance of the previous PPP government, the president admitted that it might have committed failures but democratic transition of power is its biggest achievement. He, however, added that the PPP, a populist political party, could not implement its welfare agenda due to scarce resources.
“Today even Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto would acknowledge that democracy is the best revenge,” he said referring to the PPP’s slain chairperson. “People failed to understand when I used to say, ‘we have come to create history, not to make headlines’.”
The president said that he believed in the freedom of expression as an inalienable democratic right of the people. “We tolerated scathing criticism for the sake of democracy,” he said. “Others should learn from the criticism I and my party faced. Politicians are people’s representatives and people have the right to criticise them.” The president reiterated that the PPP would support every positive move of the government. He added that he had arranged Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s meeting with Nawaz Sharif with the aim to ensure continuity of policies which is important for progress.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2013.