Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari steps down


Pakistani President Azif Ali Zardari in Moscow on May 11, 2011.


Dmitri Kostyukov

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari stepped down Sunday, ending his five-year term in a move that paves the way for a takeover by India-born Mamnoon Hussain.

Honored in a farewell ceremony, Zardari became the first democratically-elected president in the country's history to complete his full term in office.

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Arrested on corruption charges in 1996, he was released from jail in 2004 and rose to power following the assassination of his wife, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in a gun and bomb attack in December 2007.

His term was controversial at times, Zardari took a strong stance against Islamic militancy and was largely able to keep the country's fragile democracy on track.

“I am certain that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto along with all martyrs of the (Pakistan Peoples Party) are looking down on us,” Zarfari said in a speech to PPP workers after receiving a farewell guard of honour at the President House.

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The 58-year-old then left the capital for Lahore, where he is expected to continue working on the revival of his Pakistan Peoples Party -- dealt a crushing defeat in the May 11 general election.

Hussain, from the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is set to be sworn in as president on Monday.