The bar isn't set really high in Pakistani politics, because leaving office willingly when you're supposed to makes history: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari stepped down today at the end of his five-year term, becoming the first democratically elected president in the country's history to complete his full term in office. At a ceremony at the presidency, an honor guard bid farewell to a smiling Zardari. His successor, Mamnoon Hussain, is scheduled to be sworn in tomorrow. Zardari rose to power after the assassination of his wife, two-time Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in a December 2007 attack.
Analysts count his completion of a full term in a hostile political environment to his credit, as well as his strong stance against Islamic militancy. However, economic mismanagement and a failure to tackle the country's energy crisis hurt Zardari's popularity, they say. In an interview with Geo TV to be aired tomorrow, Zardari talked about "lost opportunities" and admitted that the economy could have been better managed, adding, "More work could have been done." His other major accomplishments include transferring power in democratic elections in a country plagued by military coups. Pakistani army dictators ruled for most of the country's 66-year history. He also agreed to a constitutional amendment that transferred many of the president's powers to the prime minister, leaving his position as largely ceremonial. Hussain, a textile businessman from the newly elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is set to replace Zardari as president. (Read more Asif Ali Zardari stories.)