World Bulletin / News Desk
Pakistan's elected government completed its full five-year term on Saturday, the first in the country's turbulent history to do so.
Parliament was dissolved at midnight after completing its term, and a caretaker administration will manage the government until general elections which must take place within 90 days.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was expected to remain in office until the appointment of a caretaker prime minister, a process expected to take a few days.
Pakistani newspapers noted the historic nature of the changeover in a country known for political upheaval and long bouts of military rule, while attacking the outgoing government's record on the economy and security.
"For the first time in the history of this country, an elected government has completed its tenure in office; and to that extent it can be said that history has been made," said an editorial in The News.
"That truly unfortunately, is only the form. What will be the judgment of history when it studies the content? Will it not reveal it to be a woeful tale of failure -- the failure of our elected leaders to truly make history."
Ashraf defended his government in a televised farewell speech, saying it had launched economic reforms, raised the salaries of state workers and launched development projects.
"It is true that we could not meet the expectations of the people of Pakistan, but we tried our best to control the problems and strengthen democracy," he said.
The government managed to stay in power despite frequent showdowns with Pakistan's powerful generals and an increasingly interventionist Supreme Court that pursued top officials.
The military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half its 66-year history through coups or from behind the scenes, has long regarded the civilian rulers as corrupt and incompetent.
ARMY SAYS IT WILL KEEP OUT OF POLITICS
Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, however, has vowed to keep the military out of politics and there are no signs the generals are backing any particular party for the poll.
The army, long regarded by Pakistanis as the country's most effective institution, lost face when U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden in a unilateral raid in the town of Abbottabad in 2011.
Looking ahead to elections, whose date has not been set yet, some Pakistanis said they were desperate for change and many were critical of the ruling centre-left Pakistan People's Party.
"We have tried them (the PPP) for five years. Is that not enough? Anyone who votes for them again will either be a fool, or will be doing so for selfish reasons," said grocery store owner Gul Mohammad.
"All those who care for this country will never vote for them again," he said.
The PPP could face stiff competition in the election from opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who was toppled by a military coup in 1999, as well as cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.
Former military leader General Pervez Musharraf is expected to return from self-exile in Dubai on March 24 to take part in the election.Last Mod: 17 Mart 2013, 17:44