Islamabad: Having surprised many by becoming Pakistan`s first elected President to complete a five-year term, Asif Ali Zardari will step down from office on Sunday to be succeeded by India-born Mamnoon Hussain.
The husband of late former premier Benazir Bhutto, Zardari had a controversial term but was able to keep democracy on track through a series of understandings and alliances with the country`s main political parties.
Zardari, the de facto chief of the Pakistan People`s Party, faced a strong and assertive judiciary that pursued him over multi-million-dollar graft cases against him in Switzerland.
One casualty of the struggle was former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, who lost his job when he was disqualified by the Supreme Court for refusing to implement its order to ask Swiss authorities to reopen the cases.
As Zardari prepares to step down, speculation is rife on what he will do in future.
Some say he is likely to spend his time abroad while others close to him say he will remain in Pakistan and work to strengthen the PPP, which is now the main opposition party.
The PPP faced a crushing defeat in the May 11 general election but emerged as the second largest party after the ruling PML-N.
Zardari’s son Bilawal, who is the chairman of the PPP, can run for parliament only after he turns 25 in September. Bilawal stayed away from the PPP`s lacklustre poll campaign because of "security threats".
After Zardari steps down, the new President will be sworn in on Monday. Replacing Zardari would be Mamnoon Hussain, who beat former judge Wajihuddin Ahmad of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf in a one-side presidential poll.
Born in the historic city of Agra, Hussain, who belongs to an Urdu-speaking ethnic group that migrated from India during Partition, was the ruling PML-N’s candidate.
Though Zardari wielded considerable power as the PPP led the previous government, Hussain will assume a largely ceremonial post at a time when the PML-N government is framing a new counter-terrorism policy.
Among the many issues that Hussain will have to consider after he assumes office is the controversial subject of ending a moratorium on executions imposed by Zardari.
While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanted to end the moratorium, Zardari wanted it to continue.