Zardari one year on
President Asif Ali Zardari completed his one year in office on Wednesday. Consequently, Ms Farahnaz Ispahani, parliamentarian and media adviser to the PPP co-chairman, thought fit to remind the nation on Tuesday that “he had proved his mettle” by making the Presidency “reflect the democratic dispensation — a clear defeat of autocracy and dictatorial entities”.
The same day President Zardari himself let Parliament take all the credit for doing its job well, including preparations to abolish the 17th Amendment, which the opposition doubts very much. He said he was “a pillar of the parliament” even as the opposition criticises him bitterly for retaining supra-parliamentary powers through the 17th Amendment.
Mr Zardari is not the darling of the media; he enjoys a very ambivalent relationship with the big opposition party, the PMLN, who vows it doesn’t want to topple the PPP government but some of whose leaders keep hinting at the need for mid-term elections. The PMLN is sceptical of him because of the deviousness with which he handled the restoration of the judges fired by General Musharraf.
As president, he takes credit for some foreign policy successes whose concrete results have still to materialise. But the media says he has splurged on foreign tours and spent a lot of money on visits, a few of which might have been motivated by non-official reasons. Some TV hosts even ask why he takes his children along when meeting other heads of state abroad. Unfortunately, even his China visits, which could only benefit Pakistan, are taken amiss.
One year is not long enough to pass a judgement. But there is much to his credit which will not be acknowledged because the Pakistani mind continues to be unpragmatic. His handling of the PMLN took off to a good start but he mishandled the restoration of the judges. Yet credit is due him on how he has handled the empowerment of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and actually benefited from the latter’s links with the PMLN leadership.
Mr Zardari’s biggest feat was “normalisation” with the MQM despite the old hostile reflexes of the PPP in Sindh. But by assuaging the hurt pride of the ANP from the past encounters with the PPP, he has stabilised Sindh in general and Karachi in particular at a time when the dice was loaded in favour of the Taliban and their terror enterprise. When it came to the Taliban trouble in Swat, he cleverly let the parliament decide on military action there.
If his practical politics doesn’t allow him to join the PMLN in asking for the trial of General Pervez Musharraf (retd), it shouldn’t provoke the TV hosts into calling him an “extension” of General Musharraf. Similarly, the high dudgeon about the delay in the abolition of the 17th Amendment is somewhat misplaced. The all-party constitutional committee under Senator Raza Rabbani has found that going had to be slow on the next amendment because of the variety of views expressed by the members.
Certainly, some of the rage is misplaced. He is a maverick president because he is president as well as leader of the ruling party. He actually doesn’t need the 17th Amendment powers. Like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in India, Prime Minister Gilani will always be suspected of political impotence for this reason. Unlike Mr Singh, however, Mr Gilani has actually asserted himself quite well when it comes to showing who is the executive boss.
Mr Zardari is realistic in his India policy and wants to walk the remaining few miles towards normalisation quickly rather than slowly, despite the hurdle of the Mumbai attacks. He is handsomely backed on his India policy by the PMLN leader Mr Nawaz Sharif, which means that Pakistan is well set to join the global consensus about peace in South Asia. On this subject, the media-led assault against him is bound to bite the dust.
President Zardari’s “flexibility” has placed the PPP in a position of advantage vis-à-vis the Pakistan Army. His party has successfully negotiated the difficult “talk to Taliban” phase to arrive at the “national consensus against the Taliban”, popularising the Pakistan Army once again after 1965, and surprising the outside world that had despaired of Pakistan ever learning that “talking” to the Taliban was of no use.
Assessing the political landscape and learning from early mistakes, President Zardari keeps a moderate profile and is trying to curb his old habit of solving all problems on his own. If the big changes have to happen in the five-year tenure of the PPP, President Zardari is as fair a bet for Pakistan as anyone else; and it is good that he leads the party too. (Daily Times)
‘Zardari had a politically, economically successful year’ – BBC Report
* Report states country came back from brink of bankruptcy
* Analyst says president demonstrated political maturity on Swat issue
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari managed to collect a number of successes on both the political and economic fronts during his first year in the Presidency, the BBC has reported.
When parliament and the provincial assemblies elected Zardari as president on September 6, 2008 the country was on the verge of bankruptcy and was beset by many challenges, including the lawyers’ agitation, the implementation of the Charter of Democracy, and several economic, political and security issues.
First achievement: All economic, political and security challenges were accepted by President Asif Ali Zardari in his first address to the joint session of parliament on September 30, BBC said in its report. “President Asif Ali Zardari brought the country out of the bankruptcy situation as his first achievement as president of Pakistan,” it stated. Pakistan had to repay over $5.5 billion to different international financial institutions at the time of President Zardari’s inauguration. If Pakistan did not return this money within three months, there was a fear that Pakistan would be declared bankrupt technically. It was a major challenge for President Zardari and he managed to resolve the situation fairly quickly. He interacted with many countries, and befriended several of them on political grounds to influence the International Monetary Fund into granting a loan to Pakistan, analyst Asif Farooqi told BBC.
Political maturity: Another analyst, Mahmood Shah, said President Zardari had demonstrated political maturity on the Swat issue and the Malakand Nizam-e-Adl Regulation by sending it to parliament. The president also promised the nation that he would make parliament the centre of power, while also repealing the 17th Amendment. In pursuit of this goal, he directed the formation of an all-parties committee. The president also succeeded in achieving economic gains for the country in the name of the war on terror. He formed the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, and the Kerry-Lugar bill tabled in the US Congress is set to bring billions of dollars to Pakistan. According to the report, the president also demonstrated interest in addressing the Balochistan issue. The cases against Baloch nationalist leaders were withdrawn and a successful alliance was established among the Pakistan People’s Party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party. app (Daily Times)
Asif Zardari’s Silent Reovlution — an anlaysis by Asadullah Ghalib
Nazir Naji’s Analysis in which he implicity advises Hamid Mir, Ansar Abbasi and Shahid Masood to behave as normal human beings and tolerate democracy in the country.