Asif Zardari, Establishment and the Supreme Court : by Bahadar Ali Khan

To my recallable memory collections, I can never fetch a single incident when somebody actually took pictures of the page from guest book placed at Father of the Nation’s mausoleum, except one page remarked and signed by Asif Ali Zardari after he assumed the role of the President of Pakistan and visited Quaid’s grave. The intention was to show the level of incompetency of the new President, to the extent’ that he even can’t spell correctly and this was circulated widely through Internet. This was the maiden homage paid to the new settler of the Pakistani White House by the establishment. People laughed about it, cheered it and ridiculed it. What they wanted the public to believe? Probably that if you come through fair means and elected as President of Pakistan, you are simply a laughing stock. The correct approach was to get commission in the Army. get promoted to the level of Chief of Army Staff and then impose Martial Law, hold a fake referendum and elevate yourself as a President. Nobody would dare to ridicule you.

On a blood-soaked December evening in Rawalpindi when Benazir Bhutto was murdered ,the goal of the pillars of the establishment was about to be fulfilled. Their dream to divide and make sections of the only truly federated party which had always posed challenges to the real bastion of the powers. They assumed that they would bury Benazir Bhutto and her party together. Plan was simple, the way establishment was successful in disintegrating the Muslim League which now carries post-fixes of all the known English and Urdu alphabets and hence each faction is pitched against other resulting in a toothless party, same potential treatment was waiting for PPP. The weak parties are liked by the real power wielders and towing the same line the requiem was prepared for the PPP too. Out of blue, the ‘bad’ guy came on forefront and saved the PPP from segmentation. This was simply unacceptable. And the other sin committed by the PPP leadership was to, despite their loss of BB, insisting on going to polls as planned and not only that, they also persuaded PML-N to do the same. This turned the dream of ‘king-makers’ sour which preferred mayhem and chaos over democratic process and order.

To his credit Mian Nawaz Sharif also displayed tremendous resolve to hold the norms of the democratic process to their highest esteem. During the course he disappointed the PPP detractors by not the following the line they wanted him to tread on. In Nawaz Sharif, pawns of establishment, tried to reincarnate the bellicose and rebellious Nawaz Sharif of yester-decades. But he had earned his very expensive education during the last decade when he felt the heat of Musharraf-era, whereby he could put himself in the shoes of agony which PPP wore during the times of Zia regime. The perfect synergy was established between both parties to the level that a joint federal cabinet was sworn in, which only later was dismantled on the altar of jinks.

This PPP-PML(N) duo, put establishment in an awkward situation where despite its best efforts, it felt itself out of the power arena. They took it as two popular parties colluding against the ‘mighty’. But here the political parties underestimated the power of the establishment after all they are the ones who for all practical purposes had the experience of running Pakistan for last 50 plus years which the naive betrothal of these two political parties couldn’t confront. A new wave of propaganda was unleashed, this time the mode was provocation. In establishment friendly TV talk shows a new term of ‘friendly-opposition’ surfaced, which actually caught even the stalwarts of PML-N off-guard too. They would feel embarrassed and even the Musharraf’s stooges PML-Q got the nerve to make fun of them. After all, PML-N was a different party and as the wisdom of the street dictated them to not to fall in love for democracy to the extent of giving-in their immediate rival in Punjab, PML-Q, the badly needed advantage. Thus, they started giving public statements against Zardari regime. The high moral grounds were abandoned to the political expediency and the Establishment won it again!

Now Zradari was left at the mercy of SMS manufacturing industry, the hostile and opinionated TV anchors and particularly one media group whose market share exceeds all others combined. A set of ruthless media trials started of the PPP government and as a first step, they gave buoyancy to the Yousaf Raza Gilani, the PPP’s PM. The objective was to obtain much needed division inside the ruling party. The ‘Minus-ONE’ formula resurfaced, it has always been tried to use against PPP since its inception. The elder Bhutto was too smart for them to let this formula attain any gravity, however, Western styled BB was not that street smart and in her second tenure as PM, she was the one that needed to be subtracted and Farooq Leghari was believed to be carry-over. However, it didn’t help much and PPP was wiped out of the power corridors for next 12 years to come. The ‘big-brother’ wants the PPP worker to believe, again, that PPP is a great party and Benazir is now official ‘Shaheed’ which establishment has great regards for, but only if this party subtracts Asif Zardari from its ranks. The problem with PPP worker is that he regards Noudero as a gaddi and sajjada-nasheen must come from Bhutto blood lines or their recommended one. For all practical purposes Asif Zardari fits the slot for now and the entire PPP acknowledges that.

If we look at certain events when government ignored criticism and tried to do its job. For instance, the PPP government tried to bring US aid, for the first time in the history of the nation, under civilian control. The objective was to improve the plight of education and health care system. Instead hostile media coupled with establishment, turned that aid into a stigma for the government. The propaganda was so intense that it seemed Pakistan had committed aid to US not the other way round, even the donors in US were appalled over this attitude. In ruthless animosity against Asif Zardari the establishment even tried to sacrifice the state’s interests. After when that aid, that otherwise would have been an achievement by the PPP government, has been transformed into a curse, nobody actually later on and money started coming in. What happened, did the Senate of US revised the conditions attached with the K-L bill? To my knowledge they did not. Then why there so much fuss about it? It seems now that the political government shouldn’t take credit for it and when that objective was archived, life started moving on its normal course with an addition of $1.5B per annum.!

A bunch of self-puritan media people started cursing AZ day and night. When PPP decided to respond, a barrage of criticism started from the same and other similarly synchronized media houses, as why AZ is using tough language. Nobody said that media has pushed PPP to the wall and their last resort was to clear theirself of false and concocted allegations. Even same wise media-men started ridiculing the government as it is scared of the news and commentaries and they were right in their assertion. However a distinction must be made between news and wishful stories. Same applies between political commentaries and public planning as how to oust AZ from presidency. Planning of this sort is the right of opposition parties but not that of journalists and other pillars of establishment.

This is interesting to note that most vocal opponents of AZ in media were crying over their personal issues. Somebody wanted to compete with Hussain Haqqani for the slot of Ambassadorship in some Western Capital, other was in pain because of his loss of job and yet another was an ideological fanatic, who was angry as why a consensus was built by PPP government against his favorite mujahideen. Because the latter fellow was happy over lackluster performance of Musharraf government which turned Taliban stronger rather than weakening them and they held Swat without any trouble for over three years but PPP regime turned tables on them in Swat and routed them out.

During the initial months of Asif Ali Zaradri in presidency, he spent most of his time touring around the world to plead Pakistan’s case and informing them that new public-based government is in place which they can trust. The defamation campaign started by criticizing his travel and the cost incurred on it. This made the President to spend more time in Pakistan and because of security reasons didn’t travel around in Pakistan, for which detractors coined a new term calling him ‘Bunker-President’. And yet again to prove it wrong, when he started addressing public rallies and visits inside Pakistan, even then he wasn’t spared and propaganda now started firing by questioning whether he can address as PPP chairperson while being president. In a nutshell, all the Bhutto and PPP-haters made a resolve to unsettle him. Question is, why they are doing it? Is he not an elected president? Why they want to over throw him? Do they really think if there was somebody else in his place, situation would have been better? No, they are not interested in anything else except their campaign ‘go-get-Zardari’ at any cost, no matter what, come what may! What they will do next, nobody knows, even they theirself don’t know.

During all this time, corruption remained the key word of all propaganda campaign. I don’t know how much corruption Zardari has done, but question is, whether he is the only corrupt person in Pakistan? Is there nobody else who has done the same or more? If answer is yes, which is actually a big ‘Yes’, then why we don’t see the same treatment to others? Answer is PPP. The problem with PPP is its deep roots in the public which is its greatest strength and at the same time greatest weakness or I must say its Achilles heel. This very quality of PPP always posed a challenge to the men in establishment. Nobody thinks, or I must say that we are all patients of collective amnesia as how much sacrifice its leadership has given. The whole Bhutto family is gone. But the Bhutto phenomenon still lives and as long as it lives, no matter who becomes the head of the PPP would meet the same treatment. Our establishment is very powerful, they can do whatever they want to do.

The current Chief Justice of Pakistan, who is more like an elected CJ than appointed one, also shown an extra-ordinary swiftness in reviving back a lapsed ordinance under scrutiny and as per some commentators even transcending the original plea of the appellants by giving an all encompassing verdict, so that by no way Zardari could escape the justice. The media has proved to be the protector of the Supreme Court, which is a good thing, but a natural curiosity remains to be seen. Would the NRO cases been illuminated with the same powerful media torches, had Asif Zaradri were not among the accused? The spin given to the NRO created a perception that only politician benefited from NRO, though they are only 24 out of 8000 other accused. Can I also dare to ask my Lord the CJ of Pakistan, when a suo moto process is going to be initiated against the retired Generals, including Parvez Musharraf, the bureaucrats and against the politician on the other side of the PPP divide for their embezzlements and generous loan deferments or even annulments because for sure the collective amount is million times more than what Asif Zardari and company is accused of. By saying so, I am not defending Asif Zardari, I don’t know whether he plundered or not, he should face the courts. But if I account for the time he has spent in the jails so far, is like this: 1990-1993, then 1996-2004, that amounts to 11 years without being proven guilty by a single court. How much is the maximum court sentence for the embezzlement or playing foul with the public money? Even then, for the sake of stability of the democratic system shouldn’t we let this rickety government carry-on? Shouldn’t we let the public be judge of that? We must also respect the verdict of the people who elected AZ and his party to power and if, as the impression is given, AZ is so unpopular, how come his party win the elections in Gilgit-Baltistan?

Finally I would say when the past sins of CJ for taking oath under PCO and then validating Musharraf government can be washed, when Nawaz Sharif can be pardoned for his attack on Supreme court and his family’s use of power in order to accumulate personal wealth then question remains why Asif Zardari for his perceived crimes for which he has already faced the jail-sentence cannot be forgiven?



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