Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pakistan - In defence of Zardari

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

PPP leadership has been punished without any conviction against them, whereas those who have been likened to a mafia keep getting away with everything.

My dear friend of many decades— Ziauddin —is a prolific journalist, an upright man, defiant and a committed democract. There is one common trait between he and I — he cannot convince me and I cannot he. However, our friendship remains unbreakable.
I was not shocked to read his column in this paper this week —- Zardari’s hold over the PPP. If you scratch him, you will find his views much more or less the same for most of the politicians. It is a state of mind, naturally out of frustration, helplessness to retrieve the situation.
Why have I taken to write this piece is because I have known Asif Ali Zardari longer than him and why I support him as the leader of the PPP despite Ziauddin’s views and perceptions that have been made to stick upon him by the establishment and other anti-PPP political forces that hate him for his guts and his brinkmanship. Only a man like he could have saved Pakistan from crossing the precipice following the cold-bloodied murder of martyred Benazir Bhutto. And only he could have stopped the PPP from a plotted breakup.
I remember Gen Musharraf telling Benazir Bhutto in Jan 2007 — “forget Punjab forever. You will never get it”
In the 2002 elections when General Pervez Musharraf had made it clear that he would not allow the PPP specifically under Benazir Bhutto’s leadership-- to contest elections, Bibi countered him by putting up PPPP as an electoral party. She was of the view that there was a conspiracy by him to take over the party. Bibi’s apprehensions came true when Musharraf tried to win over late Makhdoom Amin Fahim by offering him prime ministership as leader of PPPP. And Makhdoom—-being a loyalist to the core-did not accept it when Bibi told him it was a poly to gain time to break up PPPP. That is what exactly happened. PPPP splintered and 18 of MNAs ended up forming ‘NAB-zada Patriotic’ group.
This was not the first time. Field Marshal Ayub Khan had wanted to nip the PPP in its bud when ZAB founded it. General Zia tried to break it up after killing ZAB. So did others. In 1988 after Zia’s fatal fall from the skies, anti-PPP generals overly used intelligence agencies funded to clobber anti-Benazir alliance-IJI. They converted her landslide victory into a simple majority by denying Bibi ZAB’s power citadel-Punjab. I remember Gen Musharraf telling her in his meeting with her in Abu Dhabi in January 2007 —"forget Punjab forever. You will never get it".
If the PPP under Zardari does not impress my friend who rightly laments its conjured plight in Punjab-he needs to realise that Zardari is not to be blamed for it-it is all on account of establishment’s power management that has led to the fragmentation of national politics. As of today- Benazir Bhutto who was the sole zanjeer of a federal Pakistan —- has been put to rest. I don’t know whether Ziauddin would agree with me or not, I feel that had there been no Zardari, the post Bibi period would have been the swan song.
It was Zardari who outplayed the establishment by sustaining democracy, holding elections and transferring power when every day "the experts and the wired ones" on the idiot box — used to orchestrate their mantra that his government won’t last the next hour, next day or the next year.
It was no mean blow that Zardari gave to the establishment when he voluntarily transferred his constitutional powers to dismiss an elected prime minister. And as if that was not enough, the 18th Amendment made the federation invincible by translating Bibi’s dream of maximum autonomy to the provinces a reality.
It is the power of the 18th Amendment that has so far kept the establishment at bay despite many opportunities that Raiwand keeps offering to it by igniting institutional conflicts. It was first with the military in Dawn Leaks and now war with Supreme Court appointed-JIT to trace trail of the money used by the PM and his sons to buy London properties.
Ever since Zadari has come ‘out of the four walls’ into the masses, he seems to be causing sleepless nights among various vested interests. They are now trying to give the impression that AAZ is undermining Bilawal politically as they undermined Bilawal when he was on his own. Then their campaign was that he is too immature to lead such a large party.
Since I have known Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa since birth, I can say with great confidence and much to the dismay of PPP’s opponents that in store for them, is a formidable team that is determined to turn the tables on them when the time comes.
The three were born with a populist spoon, they would be the last to act like Mughal royalty. I have seen how Bibi tutored Bilawal for the imminent role in Pakistani politics that he had to play. So did she groom Bakhtawar and Aseefa to be pillars of his strength and the party. All three respectively- Bilawal as leader of PPP, Bakhtawar in the field of education/social welfare and Aseefa by her crusade in eradicating polio-have shown enough to be the unenviable chip off the Benazir Bhutto block.
The trauma of her assassination when they were so young, their forbearance to bear pain and not to show it and to take on all the anti-people forces — are a manifestation of a hope in fulfilling the Bhutto dream of making Pakistan a social welfare state. Zardari, as President, could not campaign for the party in 2013 elections, Bilawal’s life was under threat as was that of the entire PPP — their critics should wait to see what happens once there is a level playing field in 2018.
I am sure my friend would agree with me that the tragedy of the PPP and its leaders is that so far they are being punished without conviction whereas those who have been judicially condemned as the god-father are running the government like a mafia -and remain free to get away with everything.

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