Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Zardari: A Matchless Maverick

March 31, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

According to certain covert and overt reports, the sky rocketing clout of Babar Awan is now fast plummeting and might have already hit the abyss of ignominy. Here are reports doing the rounds that president Asif Zardari’s disgust or displeasure with a close cohort has reached the pinnacle point and he is even averse to seeing him in party meetings. Of late his name as a special member of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security has been withdrawn and Qamar Zaman Kaira has been appointed in his place.

Babar Awan has not only been the vice chairmen of the PPP but also the frontline lancer to beat back the attacks on the PPP from political adversaries, the press and even the judiciary. But pride hath a fall or more explicitly the higher one goes the steeper one falls, are the clich├ęs that comprehensively portray the emerging situation in regards to Babar Awan’s ongoing pitiable plight.

As ill luck would have it, his downfall started with his seeking exemption from representing himself as a defense witness in support of the Prime Minister Gilani in the Supreme Court on the serious issue of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities for the reopening of the money laundering cases against president Zardari. That ill-fated decision was deemed to be a breach of trust and indeed a betrayal by the president and the prime minister.

The annoyance of the PPP’s high command was so intense that subsequent damage control or the containment of the stupendously harmful fallout became impossible for Awan: an overly blunt, fire-spitting, and as egregiously aggressive in his posturing as presumptuous in his unguarded outpouring.

He suffered from a double jeopardy for his scornful comments against the judiciary when the Supreme Court indefinitely suspended his license to practice law. The Supreme Court further asked the Federal Government to appoint someone else as their lawyer in the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s murder case. Such are tribulations of politics that a high profile celebrity can become an object of indifference and degradation like a swing of pendulum from a dazzling eminence to a murky disgrace.

But that was digression. The subject of my today’s column was to highlight and bring into sharp focus the inimitable genius of President Asif Ali Zardari to browbeat his political contenders in political brinkmanship. He has kept at bay the Nawaz League and despite their stiff adversarial demeanor they cannot effectively move to discredit or dislodge him because of the lurking paranoid of the army’s take over.

The most astounding accomplishment of AAZ is to bridle his two shrewish and unpredictable coalition partners namely ANP and MQM by conceding to their demands howsoever untenable and excessive those might be. But more amazing and perhaps befuddling is the unconditional partnership from the Pakistan Muslim league( Q) whose leaders not long ago would heap all sorts of indignities and loathsome curses on PPP, its founder members, the Bhutto family and the incumbent ruling leadership of the PPP.

Mr. Zardari will not defend a person who declined to defend his prime minister in a court. If he is reputed to be a friend of friends, he is also notorious for going tooth and nail against those who betray or ditch him. The hearsay is that a prominent PPP stalwart Senator Raza Rabbani was also administered the same unpalatable dose of invectives and harsh tongue lashing when he tried to assert himself beyond his permitted stature. Otherwise he is a gentleman and a scholarly figure in his own right.

Coming back to Asif Zardari’s political jugglery and genetically endowed ingenuity to stand his ground and outmaneuver and outflank his contenders. The several scores of political storms and tornadoes swirling around the power boat of PPP, could have been driven away only by an ingenious and a maverick as Zardari happens to be. His making coalitions and breaking these and then realigning with new political forces to buoy up the head of the PPP above the turbulent waters would be written in Pakistan’s history as a craft that was an exclusive preserve of Asif Ali Zardari.

Although he must have been tremendously frustrated by the unending demands of both MQM and ANP which some time are untenable, yet he did not let them off the hook and kept pandering to them with conceding to their demands by readily responding with quick compliance.

He did not bother about JUI's parting company with the PPP’'s coalition government. Nor did be pamper or went extra mile in case of the PMLN that otherwise was crucial partners in the government. The two major parties together in government could have the ideal paradigm for a stable functioning of the democratic dispensation.

He deliberately created frivolous bottlenecks and went back on his written commitments with them to leave the coalition on their own. In effect, however, he was quite mindful that PMNL as a coalition partner would be a millstone around the neck of PPP all along. He used this second largest party for gaining an absolute consensus for his own election in the parliament and then pushed them away with a slight jerk of his leg.

With consummate shrewdness he has managed to sideline the army’s overbearing role especially that of the military intelligence wing and ISI in the government affairs that they have been playing by open and clandestine dictations. The Osama Ben Laden assassination at Abbottabad proved to be a blessing in disguise and kind of proverbial silver lining for PPP government that further undermined and diluted the influence of the army beyond their military ambit.

He kept every political party in good humor till he was unanimously elected as the President of Pakistan. He kept away the utilization of the army to restore law and order in Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan despite ubiquitous clamors and louder calls from both public and the politicians. His knack to smile away every adversity that befell and are still on the way is a rare demonstration of his taking the challenges with fortitude, confidence and ease of manners.

The bedrock of his political acumen and approach towards the politicians and also the neighbors of Pakistan can be summed up in one word: reconciliation. No one among the politicians who were in power has exhibited such large-heatedness and patently forgiving postures that have turned out to be amazingly rewarding for PPP government.

Apparently he never looked to be provoked or outrageous or retaliatory to the persistent smearing of his character by the press corps, the political rank and file and the cross section of the Pakistani society.

He has remained visibly unmoved, unconcerned and brushed away the vituperation of being the most corrupt president of Pakistan. He is also accused of being an accomplice in the brutal assassination of his wife and circumventing her will or fabricating it to replace her. He seldom takes seriously the accusing fingers pointed at him for his alleged involvement in the murder of Benazir and his brother in law Mir Murtaza Bhutto.

There are such disquieting and nerve-shattering stigmas against him that should have the intensity to knock any one’s brains out. But he has been on the whole tolerant and defiantly embarked upon his chosen path of remaining cool and composed to the extent of being thick-skinned. And that policy of exceptional appeasement has paid dividends to him. This attitude of pervasive accommodation is not applicable to the party cohorts who would betray him. After all he has the Baloch blood running in his veins.
That is the cardinal reason that the PPP government that is sunk up to neck in corruption cesspool and exposed to a host of legal, financial and moral scams and scandals is still hanging on to power for four years now. Mr. Zardari himself is retaining his coveted presidency for more than three years. These are laudable and momentous achievements if judged in the face of the crises that hover round the PPP government and its charlatans from prime minister to an MNA and further down.

So Makhdoom Javed Hashmi brilliantly summed up the entire philosophy of Mr. Zardari’s inimitable politicking style by saying that one needs to be a PhD in understating how Mr. Zardari conducts himself in politics, deflects the poignant challenges, disarms the opponents and emerges unscathed.

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