x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pakistani president Zardari ends first full term in office

Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, has stepped down, leaving his official residence after a record five years in power overshadowed by worsening security and a weakening economy.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, stepped down yesterday, leaving his official residence after a record five years in power overshadowed by worsening security and a weakening economy.

The 58-year-old widower of the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was treated to an honour guard from the armed forces and shook hands with staff before leaving the presidential palace.

He was driven away in a black luxury car from the sprawling residence at the foot of the lush green Margalla hills on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Never popular and always shrouded in controversy, Mr Zardari, once jailed for 11 years for corruption, is now likely to split his time between Pakistan and Dubai.

He retires six years after his wife's murder, having presided over the only civilian government in Pakistan to complete a full term in office and hand over to another at the ballot box.

His successor, Mamnoon Hussain, is to be sworn in today.

A businessman and close ally of the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, Mr Hussain's low-key persona and lack of personal power base will put him in stark contrast to Mr Zardari.

Mr Zardari is going to Lahore, hoping to open a new era for his Pakistan People's Party, which suffered a humiliating electoral defeat to the Pakistan Muslim League-N in May.

Aides denied that Mr Zardari, unpopular and divisive within the PPP, would spend most of his time abroad and insisted he would concentrate on trying to revive the centre-left party.

The Pakistan People's Party ran a rudderless general election campaign and has been thrust into its greatest crisis after its crushing electoral defeat.

Mr Zardari said on Saturday that he would not run as prime minister in future and would instead reorganise the party by shuttling around the country.