Love him or hate him, President Asif Ali Zardari is on his way to become the first president in the history of Pakistan to complete his five-year term. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, hosting a lunch at PM house in honour of the out-going president, spoke candidly of previous interactions he had shared with the man of the hour, while successfully adding yet another to his list.

The PM showed no hesitation in recognizing the President’s instrumental role in strengthening democratic setup in the country and praised him for his wise, reconciliation-focused approach while in office. Taking it a step further, too far in the opinion of some, the PM advised the president-elect Mamnoon Hussain to follow in the footsteps of Asif Zardari to serve the country.

The President, in his impromptu speech or so it seemed, appreciated Nawaz Sharif for the kind gesture and assured him of continued assistance for the sake of democracy. He also insisted, to the disapproval of many anchor persons, that the two parties should base their relationship on the grounds of mutual respect instead of engaging in mud-slinging competitions during late-night talk shows.

Despite Shahbaz Sharif’s glaringly obvious lack of enthusiasm, the farewell lunch was an amicable affair, worthy of appreciation. It was good to see our leaders refraining from the usual exchange of harsh words and finger-pointing which regretfully defines our political culture. Instead, the President and Prime Minister displayed commendable restraint and grace; and we hope this recently set tradition continues.

The PM and the President, in the company of federal ministers, services chiefs and leaders of political parties, behaved with the dignity befitting their positions. The realization on the part of party heads, except for the resident revolutionary, to adhere to democratic norms and principles, despite serious political differences, is a welcome development which must not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

However, the real challenge lies ahead when once relieved from his duties as president and without immunity; Mr Zardari will most likely face cases of corruption pending against him in courts, and will also be free to head his party now that the mantle of President no longer bans him from political office. One can only hope that such an exemplary show of statesmanship and political maturity, on both sides, extends beyond a single farewell lunch.