ISLAMABAD: Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday stepped down as president of Pakistan on completion of his five-year constitutional term.
Zardari, who was elected in 2008, became the country’s first elected president to complete his tenure.
Zardari was presented guard of honor by a contingent of the armed forces at the Presidency after national anthem was played. He then left the Presidency for the eastern city of Lahore where he spoke at his first political gathering of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
“I am glad to leave my office with dignity and honor on completion of my five-year term,” Asif Ali Zardari told staff of the Presidency at a dinner late Saturday.
Zardari said he always took decisions in the interest of the country and that he devolved powers to the Parliament voluntarily. He told Geo television in his interview as the president that he will not seek to become the prime minister and will instead focus on running his party.
President Zardari is also the co-chairman of the PPP.
The successor of Asif Zardari, Mamnoon Hussain is scheduled to take oath as Pakistan’s 12th president on September 09.
A majority of people think Zardari’s performance as the head of the state was below par, shows a survey coinciding with his departure from the Presidency.
A vast majority of respondents surveyed by the Gallup Pakistan for the Geo poll also believed that charges of corruption against the outgoing president during his term in office were correct, while his decision to place a moratorium on the death penalty was also disapproved by most people.
However, his decision to surrender all his powers to the Parliament was commended by the majority. A majority of people said there was hardly any development in any sector during Zardari’s five years as the head of the state.
This puts his negative rating to an overwhelming 63 percent of the people. However, 22 percent found his performance “good”, and to six percent his performance was “very good”.
A look at the province-wise break-up of the survey showed that the Punjab had the worst approval rating for Zardari, where 40 percent of respondents considered his performance as “very bad”, 32 percent as “bad” and overall 72 negative. This may explain the routing of his party in the May 11, 2013 polls in the province.
Only three percent respondents surveyed in the Punjab considered his performance “very good”, while 15 percent rated it “good”. The results broadly match with the election results in the province, where the PPP ranked behind the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Even in the PPP’s powerhouse Sindh, only four percent of respondents termed Zardari’s performance “very good”, while 27 percent rated him as “good”. His performance was “very bad” in view of 29 percent, while 39 percent viewed it as “bad”. That put him in the negative zone at 68 percent, even higher than the national average.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 34 percent and nine percent of the respondents rated his performance as “good” and “very good”, respectively, 16 percent termed it “very bad” and 20 percent “bad”.
This result surprisingly shows that majority liked his performance with 43 percent, with 36 percent saying no but this poll result was not reflected in the May 11, 2013 elections.
In Balochistan, 53 percent respondents said his performance was “good”, 30 percent termed it “very good”, giving him an overall massive 83 percent positive approval.
Only three percent considered the outgoing president’s overall performance as “very bad”, while for 14 percent it was “bad”. Yet despite this liking the election results were different.
Asked to comment on the charges of corruption against Zardari during his term in the office, 43 percent said these were “completely correct” while 34 percent said these were “somewhat correct.”
That means a huge majority of 77 percent believed in these charges. Only eight percent believed that the charges were “completely incorrect” while 11 percent said they were “somewhat incorrect.”
More than half of the respondents surveyed throughout Pakistan (55 percent) also disapproved of development work in the five-year tenure of Zardari, saying there was “no development in any sector” during his time.
Agricultural sector, for 11 percent of people, saw massive development in his tenure, while eight percent considered education sector to have developed the most.
Business sector, said seven percent of the respondents, grew the most in his tenure while four percent and three percent voted for education and defense sectors, respectively.
With respect to President Zardari’s moratorium on executions for condemned prisoners, 60 percent of the people polled in the survey said it was a wrong decision, while only 24 percent termed the decision a right one.
The moratorium has been criticized by many, including some members of the judiciary, who believe that stopping the implementation of death sentence was hindering justice and supporting terrorism.
Human rights campaigners, both local and international, however, support his decision and have warned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against restarting executions.
Perhaps the best approval rating for President Zardari came for his decision to surrender all his powers to the Parliament, as 65 percent of respondents thought it was the right decision. About half the number (32 percent) of those surveyed believed that even this decision of him was a wrong one.
For 58 percent, the successful completion of Zardari’s five-year term as president was a victory of democracy, while 46 percent said the credit for this complete term also went to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N.
The survey, managed by Gallup Pakistan for Geo Poll, was conducted with more than 2,560 men and women statistically selected from all the four provinces and comprised a cross-section of age and socioeconomic classes.
Interviews for the survey were conducted face-to-face at the homes of the respondents from August 31 to September 3.