Sunday, January 8, 2012

President Zardari was Evasive in his Interview

January 7, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

In his first of its kind interview with GEO Television’s premier journalist and Capital Talk show’s anchor Hamid Mir, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari displayed an easy yet evasive posture. Hamid Mir reputed to be an adept media wizard in interviews with prominent figures loaded him with all sorts of intriguing and nagging questions.

Yet president Zardari looked unruffled and exhibited a non- challant countenance as if he was neither interested nor frustrated with the tough nature of questions as well as the scathing tone and tenor of the otherwise a polite interviewer.

The interview came after the lull of a long time and perhaps for the first time from a head of state who was exceedingly controversial and has been in the eye of storm of serious allegations ranging from colossal corruption to sowing a politics of intrigues and deviousness in Pakistan.

His interview exuded a cumulative impression as if the whole world was on the wrong side and he and his party were treading the right track and serving the nation of Pakistan in an exemplary manner.

He ruled out any tussle with the opposition parties, with the judiciary and even with the armed forces of Pakistan. While even the novices of Pakistani politics were crying foul about the gross and unprecedented mismanagement of Pakistan’s affairs, president Zardari dilated on Benazir’s Income Support Program that in his view was changing the destinies of the downtrodden and would turn a new leaf in the economic and social well being of the poor people of Pakistan.

Of the host of biting questions, those about army’s complicity in harboring Osama bin laden’s covert stay in Abbottabad and Haqqani involvement in the so called Memogate scandal were paramount but were either parried by the president or were answered in a counter-question manner.

When asked why army was implicitly blamed by his government for Osama’s clandestine sojourn in a place near Kakul Academy, the president deflected its onus by pointing out that it was alluded to the former president Musharraf and not to the incumbent army hierarchy.

The counter question about Haqqani projected involvement in the memo gate scandal, president Zardari shot back by pleading that if he( Haqqani) was in league with Mansoor Ijaz then why he should come all the way to Pakistan to take to legal recourse.

He completely absolved himself of even knowing Mansoor Ijaz who has rudely jolted the sitting government in Pakistan. Mr. Ijaz an American citizen claims that Hussain Haqqani and Asif Zardari were both involved in the drafting and sending of the Memo to president Obama’s former national security advisor James Jones.

President Zardari categorically ruled out any compliance of the apex court's verdict to write a letter to the Swiss courts for reopening the so called Swiss bank account cases that primarily focus on both late Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. He took shelter behind the off- repeated plea that reopening of the Swiss bank cases was tantamount to the trial of late Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto and her grave; adding that the PPP would never allow that.

He argued that fundamentally these cases were instituted against her late spouse and not him and thus were essentially to denigrate her. He however, mooted the proposition that once he was out of the presidency, the next government could pursue those cases and do whatever they would like.

President Zardari shuffled his answers between two hats that he is wearing as the chairman of the PPP and being the president of Pakistan. When the crafty anchor would remind him of a pledge or declaration that he made but was not honored, or not well taken by the people, he would dismiss it by saying that he did so as the chairman of the party and not the head of the state.

Was he trying to hedge under the party’s chairmanship by giving an impression that the party chairman’s decisions could run counter to those that would be taken as the head of state? More often than not he would place many debatable decisions in the basket of the parliament which he ruled was independent and sovereign.

He thought that the institutions and national building departments such as PIA, Railways, Steel Mills and WAPDA were not going to dogs but were weakening and could be rehabilitated. Referring to his frequent visits to China, he expressed his robust hope that with those links that he established there, would bring fruit in the longer run and Pakistan would reap huge economic benefits out of those.

About the relationship with India, he highlighted his interaction with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with whom he claimed to have raised the water question that in his view if not decided amicably, would assume monstrous proportions for both the neighbors in future and would spell disaster for their economies.

He mockingly downplayed the sudden surge of Imran Khan on Pakistan’s political horizon by childishly comparing it with PPP”s legendry founder late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He argued that while Mr. Bhutto rallied around him the downtrodden and underdogs of the society, the PTI chairman was embracing the renegades, opportunists and runaways from other parties who were crooks and merely joined him for selfish motives.

It was a myopic analogy by president Zardari because to preempt that all those who are joining the PTI would turn out to be swindlers and self serving villains were naivety and a simplistic denouement against a budding leader.

Moreover, Mr. Bhutto emerged in a different set of circumstances that happen once in centuries. It was dismemberment of Pakistan, although he had already formed his party. But to claim that all rank and files in his party were commoners would not be an objective assessment.

Also it is primarily not the categories of humans or their social standing but the sincerity of purpose that can come from any person rich or poor, low or high. Mr. Bhutto later expelled all his pioneering revolutionaries and fell back in the company of Sardars, aristocrats, elites, oligarchs, feudals and high class thugs.

President Zardari told the interviewer that his party would contest the next elections on Mr. ZA Bhutto’s famous slogan of "Roti, Kapra and Makan". When Hamid Mir pointed that people were suffering from a deluge of problems with no water, no power, no gas and no Roti, how the people would again believe in his party, president Zardari referred to Farzana Raja’s income program and insisted on showing clip of her speech to prove that people were very well off now.

When asked as to why the reference about the retrial of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was being sent to the supreme court now while it was not done so during the two stints of Benazir Bhutto’s as prime minister, president Zardari evaded an elaborate answer and responded by merely saying that she wanted to do but could not do so.

About the PPP leaders notably Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza and Shah Mehmood Qureshi leaving the Pakistan People’s Party, the president dished out his point of view that merited more elaboration. To the public allegation of Shah Mehmood that Pakistan’s Atomic program was not safe in the hands of president Zardari, he disclosed that the nuclear regime was not under him anymore and was transferred to the parliament already.

The unique interview which was eagerly watched by the people in and out of Pakistan left many questions marks than clearing the fog of apprehensions and allegations about the performance of the incumbent coalition government and the murky conduct of the leaders now ruling the roost.

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