India-born Mamnoon Hussain, a close aide of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was today sworn in as the President of Pakistan, marking the culmination of the country’s first democratic transition.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry administered the oath at a ceremony in the presidency here that was attended by Sharif, the three service chiefs and top politicians from all parties.
It was a rare event as former President Asif Ali Zardari, who stayed in the presidency for a full five-year term and stepped down yesterday, also attended the ceremony that was beamed live on TV channels.
Zardari was the first elected President to complete his constitutional tenure and to be replaced by an elected individual in Pakistan’s 66-year history that has been haunted by numerous military coups. Hussain will be the country's 12th President.
Though Zardari's Pakistan People's Party boycotted the presidential election, Hussain was felicitated by his predecessor, who wished him well in the discharge of his responsibilities as the head of the federation.
Seventy-three-year-old Hussain emerged as a clear winner in a one-sided contest with ex-judge Wajihuddin Ahmad of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party on July 30.
Born in the historic city of Agra, Hussain, who belongs to an Urdu-speaking ethnic group that migrated from India during Partition in 1947, was the ruling PML-N's candidate.
Hussain, a textile businessman from Karachi, is an old loyalist of Sharif and remained with the PML-N even during the regime of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who exiled Sharif to Saudi Arabia and created a new party by breaking the PML-N.
He served as Governor of southern Sindh province for a short period during June-October 1999 and was forced to quit after Musharraf led a military coup against Sharif.
In 1993, he came closer to the PML-N leadership when Sharif was contesting his removal from the premier’s post by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
Hussain assumed office on a day when the government convened an All Party Conference to chalk out a strategy to tackle militancy and terrorism. He takes charge at a time when the country is faced with severe economic and security crisis.
However, Hussain will largely be a ceremonial President, unlike Zardari who had strong control over the previous PPP-led government. Analysts say Hussain will not be able to match the powers that Zardari exercised.
Hussain obtained a degree from the prestigious Institute of Business Administration in Karachi in the 1960s after graduating from a madrassa. He was also president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.