Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Do-Nothing Government

By Saeed Qureshi

Let us frankly admit that president Zardari is a jolly good person but he is not a visionary. He is not a Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that we expect of him to be in these turbulent times that seem to be a replica or re-run of 1971 events, albeit with different settings. Zaradri’s friends say he is a remarkable figure and a trust worthy friend in that he is steadfastly following the tribal Sindhi culture of hospitality and goodwill and even an edifying spirit of altruism for his close friends and palls.

He has to his credit countless friends. But most of those with whom he made friendship during his several years in Jail (Benazir his spouse called him Nelson Mandela for his long incarceration) were killed along with Benazir Bhutto in PPP’s public rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. He is by temperament a merry maker, a person who likes extravaganza, fun and revelry. He is cast in a mould of not doing serious things as is manifest in his broad grin, unguarded witty remarks and spicy repartees (with Sara Palin to hug her). He is fond of good food, nice company and partying. One of the high profile wedding festivities was held at the presidential palace with both Asif Ali Zardari and his illustrious prime minister ensconcing the bride and the groom. The food was plentiful and the dishes numerous. The law of one dish applies to the land and the people beyond the president’s residence.

Such is the level of lavishness and flamboyancy exhibited by our incumbent rulers as if the country called Pakistan was the promised paradise where honey and milk flow. The president of Pakistan gives a non-challant and carefree countenance as if he cares a damn even if the country he is presiding over was slipping into an abyss of extremism and total breakdown. The prime minister in tandem with the father-figure president blurs out the cacophony and loathsome refrain that the incumbent administration was going to complete its five year term. By this they mean that they were not concerned even if the country was going to dogs, they would stay at the helm for the stipulated period.

The woeful state of affairs and the complacency of our governing elite remind one of the funny parables of a beggar who was chosen out of blue by the residents of some city to replace the deceased king. The beggar king’s first order of the day was to serve him pudding that he ate heartily. He voraciously kept on eating variety of puddings every day. Now it so happened that the army of a neighboring country attacked the city of the beggar king. When asked to issue orders for counter-attack he instead ordered for pudding. When the enemy army drew close to the palace, he was again beseeched to issue royal decree to fight back. Instead, he grabbed his worn out blanket, put it on, and shot out of the place by saying” I was here only for pudding”

This fable may be analogical to some extent to the prevailing coterie of rulers of Pakistan. But perhaps they may sooner than later opt to leave power citadels and even the country by quipping” We were in power to serve ourselves and not the people: good bye Pakistan and good bye its people”

The fight for power for the ruling cabal was in fact not hard won. The fruits were windfall that had fallen into their laps not through a long drawn and rigorous political movement or strenuous struggle for change. Before assuming power, the top notch leaders were in foreign lands. They landed in Pakistan after agreeing to maintain the status quo and to allow Musharraf to remain president, ostensibly for the American led war on terrorism to continue unabated. That plan agreed between the foreign underwriters, the then military command and the PPP was patently against the wishes of the people who were up against the former president and the filthy system in vogue.

It was the civil society most notably lawyers, media corps, and human right activists who were clamoring against the dictator and his decadent system. The 9th March 2007 proved to be the first spark that started the prairie fire of resistance to Musharraf’s dictatorial regime and that continues to this day. The then chief justice for his own reasons or as a matter of principle braced against the oppressive manipulation of the self confident head of state who least expected such a defiance. The role of political parties in the ensuing countrywide anti government agitation was either minimal or half hearted.

But all said and done, we must admit that president Zardari should not be expected of playing the role of a revolutionary like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Deng Xiaoping of China or Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Truthfully, he is neither a politician nor a statesman, an ideologue or some one who should be much concerned about state, rule of law, supremacy of the constitution, people’s aspirations, the need of a civil society, human rights, relgious extremism or harmony, the difference between the interests of his own country and those of a hostile neighbor et al.

He did not beg nor struggled for the highest office in the country. It was bestowed upon him by luck. He is not obligated or beholden to any one except of course to his own wife for donning the mantle of party’s leadership after her death. And lo and behold! She did die and Asif Ali Zardari did become the Chairman of the party and finally the president of Pakistan. He doesn’t owe any debt of gratitude, whatsoever, to any one except to his wife, although the deceased leader did acknowledge the sacrifices and campaign of lawyers for restoration of democracy in Pakistan and indeed for the rule of law. He is the one who now calls shots in place of his predecessor President Gen. Musharraf. The difference is in name and not in style of governance. Why should, he therefore, stick to the written or oral agreements as for him these are not worth the paper written on?

So if the government is docile and is doing nothing to ameliorate the lot of the people and rid the hapless country of a plethora of problems, The blame is not on the PPP regime because even though it came into power with the peoples’ mandate yet the ground for it to contest elections was originally leveled by the back door forces in and outside of Pakistan. That is how the political exiles were allowed to return to Pakistan. It is here that the key role of Josef Biden to facilitate PPP leaders’ return to Pakistan and work with Musharraf comes into limelight. Prime Minister Gilani is absolutely right when he joyously gives all the credit to Biden and discounts the role of lawyers and the civil society in restoring the country to a representative form of government.

Every individual is endowed with a particular talent or expertise in which he excels. Mr. Zardari is not cut for politics or social reforms. He would be in his finest form if you tell him to run a club or a business enterprise. Therefore, let us not bother him or the saintly prime minister of Pakistan to curb the proliferating threat of extremism, recall Pakistani armed forces from tribal regions, provide electricity, water, food, health care, jobs, clean administration, law and order, curb abductions and kidnappings of the defenseless citizens, bridle the goons rampaging the entire length and breadth of Pakistan, lower the spiraling prices, overhaul all the nation building institutions and so on and so forth.

So let president Zardari laugh heartily, enjoy his presidency to the maximum, disregard public woes, willfully break his pledges, hold weddings in presidency, make foreign junkets, take easy the encompassing national chaos , not to take seriously the public outcry and the renewed lawyers movement and then leave at the end of the day. Quaid-e- Azam’s successors are no less than a pudding crazy beggar.

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