President Asif Ali Zardari is busy doing something that no Pakistani President has ever done before: attending farewells in his honour. After all, he is the first not just to complete his tenure, but also to hand over to an elected successor. Well, yesterday was the actual day when it happened, and the last light of democracy remaining in the country flickered and died. True, his successor takes oath today, but that is only because of the week-end. The extra time Asif might have spent in office will be adjusted in the new President’s term.

The purpose of democracy is to have Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, or at least a relative (including sons-in-law) in office. If not Prime Minister, then at least President, and one who can pick the Prime Minister, not give oath to anybody the National Assembly gives a majority. By that standard, which is shared by all jialas, democracy is dead in the country. The true jiala was the one distributing sweets when Pervez Musharraf took over. And he wasn’t distributing sweets because he was happy that the military had taken over. He was happy that now the country had a chance of returning to democracy. And though Benazir was killed, democracy came back in the 2008 election, and when Asif Zardari became President after Pervez Musharraf resigned.

Asif’s successor, Mamnoon Hussain, might be taking over the country’s most august office, but his two immediate predecessors are not the best examples he could wish for. Pervez Musharraf is under house arrest, and Asif Zardari may find the greatest advantage of his office, immunity (or at least the claim of it), disappear. That would lead to the revival of the criminal cases against him. But I don’t think Mamnoon has any cases against him, criminal or civil. Or if he did, they would have been resolved in the last five years.

However, as ex-President, Asif is not just going to wait to pass away. Who knows, he might decide to contest for the National Assembly in 2018 (or earlier, if there’s a dissolution). The late Fazal Elahi Chaudhry, President 1973-78, wanted to contest whenever the next election was held, and would have, had he not died in 1982, well before 1985. Farooq Leghari, the next man the PPP selected as President, did contest in 2003 as an MNA, and won, but died of a heart attack before the Assembly completed its tenure. Maybe Asif Zardari will become the first PPP man to have been President, and then complete a term in the National Assembly. He would not like to emulate John Quincy Adams, the only former US President (1825-29) to serve after in the House of Representatives, who suffered a cerebral haemorrhage during a debate there, and died two days later.

Asif Zardari does not plan to fade away, but to inflict himself on the PPP. With Bilawal growing up, I don’t know, but he mustn’t outstay the welcome meant for a son-in-law, when a grandson is waiting in the wings. As if he hasn’t made a pretty enough hash of the party already, he wants to revive it. No wonder Mian Nawaz Sharif was so fulsome in his tributes. With enemies like Asif Zardari around, who needs friends? Another person who would be enthused by this decision would be Imran Khan. After all, does he have a greater ally than Asif Zardari in his attempt to replace the PPP?

I know one should not talk of such things at the beginning of a presidential term, but does Mamnoon have much more to look forward to than the send-off luncheon in his honour? Well, he can’t look forward to much else, can he? Unless it is to a military coup, and being replaced by the new military ruler. Or else he can look forward to looking at bills sent to him to sign, and asking (hopefully?) if he can be allowed to send the wonky ones back. He can only swear in a new Chief Justice later this year, any new ministers Mian Nawaz might add to his Cabinet, but it’s not until this current Assembly ends its term that he will be able to swear in a new Prime Minister. And then after the elections, a more permanent sort of Prime Minister, So the first-swearing-in, of a caretaker, will be a sort of practice run. So Mamnoon will get to swear in Mian Nawaz’s successor, who (Mian Nawaz hopes) will be himself. However, if we believe in the ‘turn’ theory of PTI chief Imran Khan, it will be Bilawal Zardari. Though Imran Khan hopes it will be him. Well, what’s wrong with hoping. Maulana Fazlur Rehman also hopes it will be him. And if Munawar Hasan ever comes away from the candlelight vigil for Morsi, he hopes it will be him.

There’s a lot of speculation about what Asif might do after leaving the Presidency. Well, won’t be solving the Syrian crisis. Nor will he be attacking Syria instead of the USA. It seems that the Arabs may be able to foot the bill for an American attack, but they can’t afford our President. Maybe he should stop smiling.