Friday, June 24, 2011

Zardari’s Sudden Outburst

June 24, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The hard-hitting, outburst of president Zardari against media and his chief political rival Nawaz Sharif was both stunning and entertaining. The occasion was the celebration of the 58th birthday of Benazir Bhutto at Naudero, in Sindh.

I had been pondering, since his advent in power, that he is a crafty and foxy person who has been outwitting his contenders in the political arena of Pakistan. But the perception seldom crossed my mind that he could be stinging and scornful as well.

Perhaps he was trying to mimic his illustrious father- in-law Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in browbeating the political opponents with derisive, sarcastic and amusing phrases and anecdotes. His utterances were of the type of cheap jargon and run of the mill parlance that the street urchins exchange while playing marbles.

But despite his satirical and overly aggressive and outrageous outpourings we must admit, it was a daring display of courage and confidence in assailing not only media but also his frontline adversaries.

He did not suffer from any inhibitions or restraints in pouring out scorn on the media by throwing gauntlet that he was not afraid of the bold headlines against him.

He roared and fretted that some of the news analysts and political commentators on the media channels were political actors and therefore, would be replaced by veritable intellectuals. How would he do this is hard to fathom.

It was indeed a manifestation of the pent-up revulsion, fury and frustration that was released by the president of Pakistan without any compunctions and diplomatic or political reservations. He presented himself more like the aggressive head of his political party than the head of state.

In one salvo, he tried to portray Nawaz Sharif as the cohort and rather accomplice of Taliban and radical Islamists. At the same time he tried to win the armed forces by showering accolades on the army generals.

His implicit and covert message was that Mian Nawaz was dangerous to the interests of United States and would also prove to be a strange and hostile bed fellow for the army as he was in the past.

By using the stigmatic nickname of Mualvi, he dubbed Nawaz Sharif as an extremist or hard-line Islamist like the other religious outfits who were engaged in sabotage and terrorist activities in Pakistan. He tried to establish and make a case that Nawaz Sharif’s coming into power was detrimental to both army and the United States.

Mr. Zardari is a past master in forging and breaking alliances with other political parties. He practically watered down the Charter of Democracy signed between Nawaz Sharif and late Benazir Bhutto on May 14, 2006 in London.

On March 9, 2008, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari signed another accord known as Murree Declaration for coalition government and restoration of judiciary which practically remained unimplemented till the PMLN ministers quit the coalition government. But even out of power PMNL always supported the PPP government for survival of democracy.

Mr. Zardari has been very successful in keeping United States satisfied with Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism. Despite his infamy because of corruption and illicit hoarding of money, he has remained safe and likeable for America that ignored this aspect of his character. Even a rogue is acceptable to United States if he can fulfill the agenda of curbing al-Qaida and Taliban bands.

Mr. Zardari in his Nuadero fiery speech arrogated to himself the right of being a political maverick from which the novices like Nawaz Sharif can learn the lessons to graduate as good and clever politicians.

While he has held the thinking or mindset of people like Nawaz Sharif responsible for the assassination of Ms Bhutto also his wife, he ignored to reveal the real assassins that he has many a time claimed to know.

From his waxing undue eloquence for army and flattering the army generals, one can detect some kind of tension or estrangement that might have, of late, cropped up between the army top brass and the PPP government.

This proposition can be based on the assumption that the army’s three wings as well ISI have come under enormous pressure and censure due to setbacks witnessed in attacks on naval and air force locations in Karachi besides, the Abbottabad episode.

The army might be feeling that the government in power was trying to defame and defile the army and to keep it under tab and away from backdoor machination against the political government.

President Zardari’s argument that public uproar over electricity crisis was not justified, rings hollow. He questioned that in economically strong countries like Britain and India load-shedding and power shortage was also taking place, but the people there do not agitate.

First of all we are not sure if the power outrages happen in Britain. If that had happened there entire system based upon new technologies such as computer based services would collapse. About India there could be power breakdowns but not to the extent as these take place in Pakistan.

Furthermore, the leadership there is not as felonious and discredited as we have in Pakistan. If in Pakistan, there was a bond of trust between the leaders and the people, this public pique against the rulers would not be that intense. People think the government was not sincere in finding remedies to their sufferings including the power shortage.

President Zardari should take it for granted that he cannot walk in the footsteps of the founder of the PPP. Despite ZAB’s weaknesses and pitfalls, he still reigns in the hearts and minds of the PPP workers and supporters.

The main reason for that adoration is that ZAB was not corrupt although he was a man of super ego that brought his downfall. On the contrary Zardari’s record is stained with copious corruption.

Barring a few pockets in the interior Sindh, President Zardari is extremely controversial and unpopular for his ill gotten money scams, various criminal cases, scandals, pending against him.

Once he out of power or leaves the presidency, with presidential immunity gone, he will face a new situation that would be horrifying.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

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