Friday, December 11, 2009

Clock is ticking for President Zardari

November 6, 2009
Clock is ticking for President Zardari
By Saeed Qureshi
“The higher you go the steeper you fall” goes the adage. It is so appropriately relevant to President Asif Ali Zardari who, not long ago, took the reins of Pakistan’s presidency. His Achilles Heel is his propensity for lying. He lied so many times and reneged on his solemn commitments so daringly that now his sincere promises may be taken as the outcries of the proverbial shepherd who cried wolf when it was not there. When it actually came no one came to his rescue because the villagers thought that it was yet another of his gimmicks.
Zardari is abundantly cunning, overly indiscreet or ambivalent, that he takes the whole nation including the politicians as midgets who could be leisurely bluffed time and again. He has lost the bus that could have secured his journey to a destination for a few years ‘vacationing. But perhaps while he is a crafty manipulator and a rank liar, he is not essentially a politician. He is a shrewd businessman man but he missed the cardinal point that politics is not all business. I like his broad grin and audacious face. Beyond that he leaves a phony portrait.
After all these years of incarceration, exiles, tribulations and vituperation of his person, even a devil should, with such prestigious position as the president of country, turn as pious as a Jesus reborn. Instead he chose to be a trickster reincarnate. Now what stopped him from shedding such extra baggage as the 17th amendment or the 58-2-B abomination? And mercifully he so categorically took it upon himself to revive the parliamentary democracy in Pakistan after a decade’s military rule by surrendering his powers to the prime minister within 24 hours of taking over as the president. He could have laundered his past sins and redeemed his wrong doings in more than one ways. He could have been content with the position of the party chairman or that of the head of the state. Had he done this well in time, he could have created an honorable niche for himself, notwithstanding how much wealth he stashed in foreign banks or concealed somewhere else.
But with the decision to take the NRO to the parliament first and then withdraw it in a humiliating hast for fear of not having enough parliamentary support, makes his government look as an outfit of clowns springing one dreary trick after another. Now the re-examination of NRO by the courts, whose outcome is as unpredictable as exploring the unknown, is staring in Zardari’s and other pardoned cohorts’ face. In the meantime, he has alienated his poltical allies and has been keeping the coalition partners in waiting for the undertakings he pledged to fulfill. ANP is waiting for the NWFP to be renamed as Pakhtunkhawa; the PMLN is sitting with its fingers crossed to see the charter of democracy to be shored up, while some of the hardcore fans of Bhutto clan want the murderers of Benazir Bhutto to be caught and prosecuted.
President Zardari, after his advent into the presidential mansion, so conveniently forgot all crucial issues as if these never existed and the uproar of the poltical counterparts was a cry in the wilderness or a kind of poltical blackmailing that he was trying to thwart. His cronies in the government have no shame in pleading his elephantine deviousness and deception that has remained his only dubious hallmark ever since he assumed the powerful presidency as a windfall prize or by default.
He could have demonstrated as to how he differed from his military predecessor president general Pervez Mushrraf. He could have atoned for his murky and tainted past. But with a genetic propensity to go on the wrong side of history, he has marred his future which can be as bleak and uncertain as one may conjecture. The latest deals of land in his and his son’s name eloquently reveal the mindset of a person who was more prone and seized of using his powerful position to buy the precious land for pennies. This looks more diabolic when weighed against the studied indifference he apportioned to the most critical and pressing issues of the country.
Mr. Zardari seems to have played his game. It is difficult to guess if the latest spate of his meetings with his estranged partners in government would help restore his deviant image and he would be able to again feel robust and confident as he has been in the first few months after becoming the president. But this is the opportune time for the apprehensive allies to demand their pound of flesh. But in the wake of the NRO to be reexamined and adjudicated by the judiciary, there should be only a lukewarm spirit of kinship and camaraderie between the PPP and the coalition parties that abounded in the early honey moon period.
If president Zardari manages to regain the support and sympathy of his allies, it would be accomplished at a huge and heavy cost. This time the stakes would be much higher from the coalition partners. In a scenario of dwindling fortunes, it is debatable and doubtful if Zardari despite his powerful presidency would be able to translate all his promises into reality.
Momentarily, the best way out for him is to relieve himself of the onerous burden of draconian 58/ 2-B, move speedily to revive the 1973 constitution and take one of the hats off his head: either remain the party chairman or else the president of Pakistan. If he does so he might still get some credit. But still the Sword of NRO and its judicial outcome would keep hanging over his head. If he is charged he loses the presidency. If he goes to jail, he loses the party’s lordship as well.

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