The Zardari phobia and the minus-one formula

Media and minus-one formula

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, declared at the Independence Day flag-hoisting ceremony at the Mazar of Quaid-e-Azam on Friday that “the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had never before accepted the minus-one formula, nor will it accept it today”. He said, “PPP’s democratic government has not entered the corridors of power from the back door as it enjoys a public mandate. Conspiracies are being hatched against democracy and the PPP”.

Mr Shah was referring to a media campaign against the person and party of Mr Asif Zardari. Though the campaigners say they are not gunning for President Zardari, the PPP rank and file certainly see a “get Zardari” front by a certain section of the print and electronic media that has been the greatest supporter of the campaign for the restoration of the judges and at odds with Mr Zardari and the PPP from the outset.

Unfortunately, after a protesting response from a senior PPP member at the centre, the campaign by this particular media group has become a confrontation. The plaint of “media trial” has been accepted as a challenge and more “revelations” have been promised in what might become a demonstration of the power of the media in the country. Is the campaign fair?

Theoretically speaking, in so far as the job of the media is to hold the government of the day to account and scrutinise its actions in the light of the law, no critical revelation is out of bound. At worst, the government or a member of the party can take the concerned media source to court and demand proof, failing which it can claim compensation. But this is Pakistan. The courts are flushed with pro-media feelings, especially for a media group that has supported the judges to the hilt. So for the government to get justice against this media — what a thought! — in Pakistan right now is asking for the moon. At any rate, such recourse would attract even more censure at home and abroad and prove counter-productive for the government. So it can only lie back and enjoy it.

On the other hand, aiming or seeming to aim at getting rid of President Zardari through such a campaign, which often verges on being discriminatory-defamatory, is not kosher at all. This is what the PPP is partly complaining about when it talks of the “minus-one formula”. For instance, you can describe the plight of the PIA as a “bankrupt organisation” — like many others in the public sector — but it may be difficult to prove corruption against the sitting government by only describing a bankruptcy which is nothing new and implicates several governments in the past.

If truth be told, the campaign against Mr Zardari has often become unsavoury. One can only approximate the innuendos carried in certain pointed TV programmes and columns. For instance a column on August 12, 2009 said, “After getting out of jail through an understanding with Musharraf, Zardari thought he could lead the PPP, but Benazir did not allow that. Even her children were bred away from the shadow of his character”. The same column also “informs” us that “when Zardari was not successful in playing a prominent role in the party during Benazir’s life, he went off to Dubai where he caught a strange malady of the heart which could only be removed by being in his flat in New York among his pretty ones. Only his medical adviser — recently removed as adviser to the government — can tell what his heart was suffering from”. This is hitting below the belt and not journalism.

Everyone has disavowed the old reflex of trying to get rid of the government mid-tenure. But if you look at the political landscape of Pakistan you will clearly see that there is a media campaign to do just that to the PPP government. Criticism of the government is a duty that a free media must perform, even of problems like the PIA, of load-shedding and rental units, and the wheat and sugar crises, that have a history in the past. But defaming the president of the country so blithely is not a good precedent to set, especially by comparing him to a president recently deposed in Latin America for corruption.

The PPP has won the 2008 election fair and square. It rejects the “minus-one formula” and has the right to rule till the end of its tenure. Its opponents can get rid of it by defeating it in the next elections. The media has no business launching any campaign for regime change. (Daily Times)


Abbas Ather: Aiwan-e-Dard

Some relevant comments

aly said:

i think leaders are those who lead the public opinion rather than who follow the public opinion.

Munir said:

“ataraxis6 As I said you do need a stick, means dictators like ZIA.

You do not deserve democracy.

AZ is an elected president so If you are a democratic then regard his term. I have no love for AZ but love for the demoracy. I assure you if this was NS then he,NS,would have been criticised like AZ.As NS was removed in 1999 because of the publice sentiment against NS just after two years of democracy and It was a time when NS had two third majority in the NA. We have very short patience for a demoratic governments and on the other hand we give military dictators like 11 years.


tahir mahmood said:
Then call 111 Brigate to take over.
Muhammad Usman said:
no matter how unpopular president zardari is– he has every right to be president for 5 yers. minus 1 is bull shit crap/

Pakistan-Khappay said:

Its interesting to see how these so called anti american and pro taliban people have started jumping gleefully at an american report just because it is against Zardari. Obviously none of these people have an inkling about research and how it should be done. Read the report fully and you will go crawling back to your Taliban caves. These people have interviewed 23000 people in 25 different countries, roughly 1000 each country. Is 1000 a representative sample, Nowehere in the report does it say how many sindhis, punjabis baloochs etc were included. The Income classes are mentioned percentages not given.
A study based on 1000 out of 17 billion people only is extremely open to bias and is not worth the piece of paper it is written on. If this was sent to a journal for publication it will not even get through first phase of review. Pakistan Politics is largely divided into pro and anti ppp sects. Pro ppp population are mostly based in villages and poor people whereas anti ppp class is mostly in cities what is called as the middle class and elites.
Obviously a large group of these people who are surveyed will be from cities (think logistics will these people go to villages of sindh or south Punjab or Balochistan). Also the survey is worded in English as far as I can see they have not mentioned it was translated into urdu or regional languages. So this survey tells us nothing new, we already know urban punjab is NS stronghold and rural areas of punjab and other provinces PPPs.It is a known fact that incumbent presidents do become unpopular after first year or so.
It is natural phenomenon, people have very high expectations and they obviously blame the government for everything. Barack Obamas rating has taken a huge tumble and that is according to credible surveys, does that mean CJ of US wil become President of US or Army chief will step in or he should be killed as someone suggested that AZ should be. What is more ineteresting is to see that this organisation is run by Madeliene Albright, who is a known enemy of pakistan. Her bringing this report about President of Pakistan just when Richard Holbrooke is visiting Pakistan asking them not to interfere in Afghan elections and let India have a free hand, and also to squeeze maximum out of Pakistan is worrying. These are all pressure tactics used to make AZ give US maximum leeway.
This whole sudden activation of people like Dr SM and formation of large banch for NRO, rumours of PM president conflicts are all age old pressure tacics. There are times when a nation needs to rise above petty politics and support their leaders, so that they can take a firm stance for them. Now is one of them, but alas this Anti PPP forum is too blind in their Bhutto hatred to think straight. These surveys wont matter zilch when it comes to elections, PPP is and will remain the biggest party with PML(N) a close second,(or vice versa) people like PTI and JI and the justice party (there will be one before elections lead by Aitzaz, they will try to name it PPP (Iftikhar group) wont get more than 2 or 3 seats combined. Sorry to let the air out of the bubble of this justice party forum.
dara said:
Asif Ali Zardari has shown great leadership so far, From Pakistan Khapey to Sawat issue, from Mumbai Issue to ISI bashing in west. The issue of Musharaf is not that straight forward, those who think Musharaf could be trialed and sentensed should know it means trial and sentense of Mr. Kiani and some other serving military elites, who has courege to do that?

To me Musharaf’s bigest crime was 12th Oct 1999 acts, rest was just continuety. As far as ledership is concerned Benazir proved through out her life , specially early days of Zia’s dark era. Zardari has been loyal and stood with PPP and BB after 10 years of jail. Those who are dead against Zardari and not on issues but because of their blind hate for Bhuttos have no leadership to present. Imran Khan couldn’t bear one week of jail in Nov 2007, that was big political joke when he went on hunger strike to get himself released.

If Zardari and ppp’s Govt was dismissed through unfair means i bet a complete chaos and disappointment amongst Sindhi, Siryki , Pastoon and Baluch nations. Unfortunately we are divided nation, Central Punjab and Urdu speaking Karachiates don’t like ppp but dead against each other too. ppp is more popular in small provinces and also among poor Punjabis.

democrate said:
at the end of term when all taliban will be killed,17th amenment will be abolished, electricity problem will be solved, his rating will improve surely.its just the bigening,no need to panic.after defeating taliban,zerdari future is secure.only zerdari has guts to solve big problems like taliban. (source: pkpolitics)