Pakistan's leader steps down after historic term
Asif Ali Zardari stepped down as Pakistan's president yesterday after making history by becoming the first civilian to complete a full five-year term since independence in 1947.
Mr Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto (inset), was given a military guard of honour as he left his official residence.
His spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said Mr Zardari would be travelling to Lahore "to start yet another chapter in political struggle". It had been speculated that he might leave the country because of security fears and his loss of presidential immunity, but Mr Babar said the departing leader had no plans to do so. Mr Zardari has promised to rebuild his Pakistan People's Party, which suffered a humiliating defeat in May's general election.
His reign was always controversial and never widely popular. Before taking power, Mr Zardari had spent 11 years in prison for alleged corruption – charges he always said were politically motivated.
He was never meant for the political limelight, preferring to leave that to his wife, who served twice as prime minister. That changed in 2007 when she was murdered, catapulting him to centre stage.
At a recent dinner, he joked about being written off when elected president. No one believed he had the political acumen to hold together a fractious coalition. "Today is one of those days when I can turn around and say I told you so," he said.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, an analyst in Lahore, said Mr Zardari's biggest achievement was simply staying in power and completing a full term. (© Daily Telegraph, London)