Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Give a Break to President Zardari

January 2, 2010

By Saeed Qureshi

All said and done, Asif Ali Zardari is the democratically elected president of Pakistan. He did not achieve this status from the back door. Politics is not a game of strict moral standards. He is corrupt or not, let the courts decide it. His ministers are accused of corruption let the court find out. But his speech in Nodero on the second death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto absolves him of the blame that he was working at the behest of the foreign string pullers or at the bidding of the so called omniscient establishment.
He roared at the army and lambasted the Americans particularly with reference to their dirty role in Iraq. He mentioned the anti Bhutto forces and vowed to fight for the solidarity of the country. That was a fresh breeze and a dazzling demeanor that was hardly expected of Mr. Zardari who is heaped with all kinds of unsubstantiated insinuations under the sun. To challenge the army and the establishment with such outspoken courage and in so daring a manner underscores the new garb Mr. Zardari is putting on.
Once again, Addressing a gathering at the ground-breaking ceremony of ‘Windar Dam’ at Lasbela, on January 2, he repeated his charges, that undemocratic forces in the country are conspiring to remove him from the presidency because of his facilitating the oppressed Bloch masses. He did not specify which these forces were but putting together his December 27 Nodero speech with that of Lasbela it is quite clear that no other forces in Pakistan have the power or the resources or the oppressive apparatus to remove any head of head of state except the armed forces. So one again he seems to brace him against the army that is known for removing the democratic governments in the times of severe poltical crises.

It’s one of those rare moments that an elected head of state picks up enough courage and confidence to challenge the forces that he fears were active to remove him from the political stage. There seems to be in making a climate of confrontation in Pakistan that generally gives an impression as if the PPP government and particularly president Zardari feels threatened by the army and the intelligence agencies that have earned the dubious distinction of king makers. But apparently there are no indications from the army or the tenured actors or elements as pointed out in his two speeches to challenge the authority of the incumbent democratic coalition government.

If the overt or concealed reference is to the judiciary then it should be understandable that this branch of state doesn’t have the physical power to get its verdicts translated into observance. The implicit hint is directed at the army. Even the rival poltical forces have no material means, unless they are covertly in league with the army, to stage a street coup against the sitting government.
However, the bravado and the courage betoken an exceptional change of politicking on the part of a president so far exhibiting a profile of docility. It’s possible that behind the curtain the president might have been advised to resign and if he doesn’t the other options could be explored.
Otherwise, there is no way that he can so outspokenly burst out publically against the anti Bhutto and anti government forces. This could as well be the use of the much debated Sindh card and of late the Balochistan card to muster enough public support to resist any attempted ouster by the forces poised against the sitting government. President Zardari in the same breath is talking of the confrontation between the institutions which perhaps he means between the army and the government on one side, between the executive and the judiciary on the other. But the explanation offered by his wizard spokesman instead of clarifying the already befuddled situation further complicates it. The anti Bhutto forces have to be clearly defined. By merely saying that this is a mindset is not going to pacify the discerning minds and the nation at large. The army must be busy in an exercise of scanning and interpreting the meaning of the president’s words and the motives for their utterance, for apparently there is no visible tension between the army and the government.

But the rhetoric of Zardari still a novice in the realm of politics must be overlooked as still his party is the symbol of a political and democratic government which despite all its drawbacks must be allowed to carry on. What is imperative for the PPP leadership is to repair and restore their links and alliance with the opposition for hammering out a broad national consensus. The first step towards this direction is to revoke the 17th amendment by whatever mode and mechanism it is possible to do. President Zardari and his colleagues must understand that even to brace up against the army or other forces that he pointed out in his Nodero and Lasbela, he needs support from broad poltical spectrum.
Additionally the government must address emergently the countless problems of the masses such as scarcity of basic food items and spiraling prices. The electricity, water power, gas and a host of other problems driving the people mad must be tackled on war footing urgency. Finally corruption of the ministers and affiliates of the government must not be side-tracked and those among cabinet ministers must be asked to resign till the cases get a verdict from the courts or from the National Accountability Bureau. Otherwise any mischief can happen and the harassed people would see from the sidelines and with folded hands, another government being dismantled.

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