Sunday, January 8, 2012

After All Zardari is the President of Pakistan

December 9, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

If the detractors of Asif Ali Zardari do not respect him as a person let them at least venerate the office he is holding. Simultaneously he is the chairman of the leading political party in Pakistan whose services to the country have not been excelled by any other party. The parties like individuals face phases of rise and fall and fame and decline.

The PPP is passing through the same cycle but hopefully, would come out of this dismal situation with a new vigor and commitment and fall back on its original track of devotion to the cause of the downtrodden.

The political brinkmanship and bickering takes odious forms in a country like Pakistan where the race for power assumes monstrous proportions through vilifying and character assassination of the rivals. Now in democracies, there should be a modicum of mutual tolerance and respect even if a dispensation stumbles in coming up to the expectations of the people.

PPP has been mauled for almost three decades by the overbearing establishment. As such it could not deliver and implement its revolutionary program for the benefit of the common people. It speaks for the resilience and inherent strength of this party that every time; it braved the vicious and ferocious storms with exceptional poise and resilience.

If there were other parties in the same horrendous situations and had been bludgeoned for a prolonged period of time, these would have vanished from the political scene of Pakistan or would have turned into fringe and insignificant political outfits. But after every malady and crisis, the PPP has resurged with added vigor, renewed spirit and vibrant determination.

Its two illustrious and lofty leaders, who still rule the hearts and minds of the majority in Pakistan, were assassinated. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had fallen victim to a malicious and partisan judicial process and Benazir Bhutto was murdered by the dark forces that would not want her to lead the country with a watershed agenda for change.

To allege that her spouse the incumbent head of state was somehow involved is her assassination is outright false and negates the commonsense. At a time when Benazir Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi, even the best of sorcerer or pundit could not predict if the PPP would win the elections in case a democratic process was to be set in motion by the military establishment under general Musharraf.

At that time, the political situation was in a melting pot and was brewing up to be crystallized in due course. Benazir Bhutto was intelligent enough to foresee that she was vulnerable and could be removed by the vengeful opponents and therefore had to nominate a successor in her will. The full text of that document could be revealed on the order of the court if someone makes such a request. Benazir Bhutto did not want the PPP to fall apart in case she was removed from the political scene of Pakistan.

But the will and nomination of a successor is besides the issue that we are analyzing in this article. If the PPP rank and file has accepted Mr. Zardari as the president of the party then it is entirely the party’s internal matter. If the PPP can manage to elect the chairman through a proper voting procedure then the nomination lacuna would also be washed off.

In due course of time the allegations of corruption against Mr. Zardari would be taken up by the court which in fact has made considerable progress after the detailed verdict of the apex court on the NRO. Now if the government moves ahead by withdrawing the previous letter of closing the Swiss cases, there could be further revelation whether Mr. Zardari have done something wrong and he deposited money in the Swiss banks or not. It would be prudent for antagonists to wait for the outcome of the legal process.

As for cutting short the tenure of the government, it would be better to wait for the next elections and let the people decide through the ballot which party they would like to rule the country. That is the only legitimate recourse to determine the right or wrong performance of a government.

Thus far somehow despite heavy and countless odds, to keep intact the edifice of the democracy despite poor governance, alone is a laudable achievement of the present government. The political acumen of president Zardari in forging new political alignments must be appreciated and applauded as he has proven that he was always ahead in browbeating the other contenders in the political arena..

The political game in Pakistan has never been played on leveled grounds. It has remained subject to rough and tough conditions and personal and clannish animosities. As such the political process moves forward though with jerks and jolts. To keep the PPP in power by weaving and working out alignments and coalitions with such unpredictable and recalcitrant parties as ANP and MQM is not a mean achievement. At least with such arrangements the cart of democracy is moving forward.

The bad governance and corruption is endemic and seeped into the very body politic of Pakistan. If we claim it’s only the PPP whose ministers and leadership is corrupt then it would be a partisan and unrealistic denouement. All sections of society, all branches of governments, all institutions, and the top brass of the country sitting in influential and high profile slots have been corrupt all along. Are there not stories of corruption and misuse of power about parliamentarians, the senators, the bureaucrats the army generals and so on?

In Pakistan the politics has been mostly overwhelmed by jingoism. There are invariably hard sentiments and fixed stances between the people in power and those out of it. The tussle boils down to one baneful motive: to pull down a sitting government by hook or crook even it means undermining the democratic culture and imposing the military dictatorship.

No government has ever been popular and fully supported by the people in Pakistan. General Ziaul-Haq was despised for obvious reasons. Nawaz Sharif remained under the burden of disparagement for his dictatorial disposition and for falling out with judiciary and army. The PPP that came to power by the masses support was bitterly opposed by the political adversaries as well as the army and the bureaucracy.

So to single out PPP for all the misdeeds under the sun would be too biased an opinion for the vendetta-filled political counterparts who would want a military rule over the country but not a political dispensation that despite its drawbacks should still be preferable and far better for the country.

Presently, the Press and judiciary enjoy absolute freedom in Pakistan. The civil society is active and on the move. The elections are drawing near and the political forces are gearing up for that. The people enjoy the freedom to vent their enraged feelings and outrage in rallies and demonstrations without any hostile or stern retaliation from the government. These are the fruits of democracy and shining aspects that we all enjoy because of an elected government that despite many shortcomings allows civil liberties, dissent and debate.

We should not be impatient to invite undemocratic forces to push this government down the hill. In another year or two, through fresh elections a new government, with the will and vote of the people, will step in. That would be for the first time that a civilian democratic government would complete the constitutional tenure of five years.

Would that not be the brightest and most spectacular achievement that the present government would be entitled to? The demand for snap elections may satisfy the urge and expediency of the opposition to snatch power but would deprive the duly elected government of its constitutional right to rule for the stipulated period.

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