ISLAMABAD / LAHORE.: In epoch-making style, Asif Ali Zardari stepped down as president on Sunday, securing his place in history as the country’s first democratically elected head of state to complete his term in office.
The watershed moment is made more significant by the fact that Zardari’s last three predecessors – Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Muhammad Rafiq Tarrar and General Pervez Musharraf —were all in one way or the other forced out of office.
A guard of honour by a contingent of armed forces formally marked the end of the tenure of Zardari, who will be carrying his trademark smile right from the Aiwan-e-Sadr to Bilawal House in Lahore.
From Saturday midnight, Asif Zardari ceased to be president. So far, 11 presidents have served the country since the 1956 Constitution was adopted.
A huge fireworks display was organised by the Sindh cabinet members at midnight at Karachi’s Sea View to honour the outgoing president. Several parliamentarians and leading politicians were invited at the display.
On Monday, in what again will be a turning point in Pakistan’s 66-year history, the outgoing president will attend the oath-taking ceremony of the newly elected president, Mamnoon Hussain.
Zardari was elected president on September 6, 2008 after winning a majority in the electoral college with 481 votes of 702. He will remain the Peoples Party – the post he acquired after the assassination of his wife, the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
On reaching Lahore, the outgoing president chaired a meeting to kick off the PPP Punjab’s re-organisation campaign.
Addressing party leaders at the meeting, Zardari said that he accepted the new government’s mandate with an open heart for the sake of democracy. However, he added, “It is peculiar though that the PPP won the whole of Sindh in the May 11 election, but was wiped out in Punjab.”
He promised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the PPP will support him in each and every step. His commitment to Sharif was a stern message to those forces that wanted to weaken democracy and favoured the bullet rather than the ballot, Zardari claimed Free from his presidential responsibilities, he said he looked forward to meeting with party workers and visit PPP strongholds. “I’ll revive the axiom of “Jeay Bhutto” (Long Live Bhutto) from Kashmir to Karachi!”
In his remarks, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, who organised the meeting, welcomed Zardari and said that he was the only President who gave away his powers to the Parliament through the 18th Amendment. He lauded the outgoing president to have pursued the policy of reconciliation and demonstrated immense patience during his five-year tenure despite incessant criticism.
In with the new
President-elect Manmoon Hussain will be sworn in today (Monday) under the third schedule of the 1973 Constitution.
A contingent of armed forces will welcome him with a guard of honour and the incoming president will then be greeted by the presidency administration.
Mamnoon Hussain, 73, was elected the country’s 12th president on July 30. He won 432 votes and his only rival, Wajihuddin Ahmed, 77, after the PPP boycotted the vote.
Hussain owns a textile firm and was president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry at one point during Nawaz’s second term as prime minister from 1997 to 1999.
In 1999, Nawaz surprisingly appointed him governor of Sindh, but his tenure was cut short when Nawaz was deposed in the October 12, 1999 military coup.
History: 11 Presidents of Pakistan
1956: Iskander Mirza
1958/1962: Ayub Khan
1969: Yahya Khan
1971: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
1973: Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry
1978: Muhammad Ziaul Haq
1988: Ghulam Ishaq Khan
1998: Muhammad Rafiq Tarar
2001/2007: Pervez Musharraf
2008: Asif Ali Zardari
* Wasim Sajjad and Muhammad Mian Soomro served as acting presidents from December 1997 to January 1998, and August 2008 to September 2008, respectively.