Source: Daily Times
Zardari has spawned an entire genre of yellow journalism. He has never sued, jailed, or harmed anyone for levelling the basest and meanest allegations at him
“Pakistan’s nuclear assets are not safe as long as Zardari exists [Zardari ke hotay huay],” said Shah Mehmood Qureshi a couple of weeks ago. This is gutter politics based upon shameless posturing. By making this claim, Qureshi has proved that he has the genes of his father who was a collaborator of General Zia, Pakistan’s version of Beelzebub.
“I will hang Zardari at the Bhaati Gate,” threatened Shahbaz Sharif. He also said, and many times indeed, “I do not accept Zardari as the president of Pakistan!” Indeed the younger Sharif has lived up to the reputation of the elder brother that he was a seed that was planted and nourished by Generals Zia and Jilani.
“The memo is against the sovereignty of Pakistan,” thundered Nawaz Sharif. Certainly, the charges against Nawaz Sharif of corruption are harmless political diversions.
“Zardari and Pakistan cannot go together,” and “as long as Zardari is the president, fair elections cannot be held in Pakistan”, Imran Khan has warned many times. This is politics sans conscience because no proof is offered to justify the warning.
Our generals are ‘impatient’ with Zardari and think he is useless (fazool, in the words of army-inspired journalists who tell what the generals are thinking of Zardari). These great generals have always been defeated by the enemy but have repeatedly conquered the ‘bloody civilians’.
“Zardari is a rotten head,” claimed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. This comes from a man who presides over one of the most murderous religious ideologies of the modern world.
From a petty bourgeois trader pedalling fake watches to the mightiest in Pakistan, all are agreed that Zardari is the cause of all ills in Pakistan. The other night I was invited to a dinner where I had a conversation with two friends, PhDs in engineering and economics respectively, and capable professors. Echoing Mansoor Ijaz, they claimed that Zardari was in the know of the American attack on the Osama compound. According to them, “Between the Navy SEALs’ assassination of Osama and the publication of Zardari’s article in The Washington Post, the time span was only two hours. How can Zardari write and publish an article on Osama’s assassination in such a short time unless he knew what was going to happen? How can The Washington Post publish an article at such short notice when it is known that top newspapers plan days and weeks before what to publish?”
This was not the first time that I had the luck to learn about Zardari from highly educated people. During Benazir’s first stint as prime minister, Brigadier Tariq Mehmood (called TM) died because his parachute did not open. I was a teacher at that time. A few professors of history and political science affiliated with right-wing political parties claimed that Zardari had taken money from the Israelis to fix TM’s death. Takbeer, an extreme right-wing weekly published from Karachi, printed a highly suggestive article claiming that TM had requested his superiors in the army to allow him and his fellow brave officers to parachute into Israel and they would break its back (Israel ki qamar torr denge!). At that time, Zardari did not hold any office, but was, all the same, Pakistan’s prime minister’s husband.
With the above few examples in view, it is possible to do a PhD on how Zardari is blamed for everything bad that happens in Pakistan. During last year’s floods, there were rumours that the rains were caused by the Americans, and Zardari was complicit. From very young children to those whose legs are in the grave, Zardari is the perfect punching bag to release our anger and frustration. YouTube is full of short videos showing little kids singing in chorus: “Zardari aik museebat hai” (Zardari is a nuisance), and adults saying as long as Zardari is our president, Pakistan will continue to suffer. From cheating in the examinations to Pakistan’s loss to India in Mohali (did Zardari not send Gilani to Mohali with a message for the players to throw the match, or else?) to electricity outages to bad weather, the eternal leitmotif is Zardari. The only blame he has escaped is that he planned the Mumbai attack, probably because our jihadi media does not want him to do or seem to be doing anything that can bring him Allah’s ‘blessings’. This also explains why he was not named as the man behind Salmaan Taseer’s assassination. Qadri, the ‘blessed soldier of Islam’, would never like to be associated with Zardari.
The point is: what will happen if Zardari quits politics and goes into retirement? What will happen to hundreds of journalists, thousands of politicians and their various flunkies, and millions of Pakistanis? Zardari has spawned an entire genre of yellow journalism. He has never sued, jailed, or harmed anyone for levelling the basest and meanest allegations at him. Thus, in a way, he has encouraged the journalistic industry, which lives off his ‘misdeeds’.
Once Zardari is out of office, he will be sorely missed, I can assure you. Where in the world will you find a president who is incessantly and viciously demonised, but never says a thing? One media house has been publishing one shameless lie after another, but Zardari has never said a thing. Our corps commanders hold a meeting and reject the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, but Zardari does not have them sacked for their insubordination. The Americans finish off Osama, but no general is sacked for complicity or incompetence (or both). There is not a single political prisoner in Pakistan today. But no one will give Zardari the benefit. People like Zaid Hamid openly invite the army to take over because Zardari is bad, but nothing happens to them. Can anyone cite just one example from Pakistan’s history where people got away with insulting the head of the state and the largest political party?
No one is willing to say that Zardari has done any good things. He is the only president in Pakistan’s history who has donated his eyes. But people smell a conspiracy in this too. Some of the good things Zardari has done include: (1) Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), (2) Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package, (3) 43,800 acres of land distributed among landless peasants, (4) reinstatement of sacked employees in different government and semi-government departments, (5) minimum pay for labourers increased from Rs 4,600 to Rs 7,000, (6) political rights given to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, (7) bills for women’s rights and empowerment, (8) 18th and 19th constitutional amendments, (9) combined NFC Award, (10) Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline agreement despite American opposition, (11) kicking out of the Saudi ambassador for distributing money to Islamist terrorists, (12) forcing the Americans to tie aid to Pakistan to the continuation of democracy (this is why the generals are mad at him), (13) devolution of governance to the provinces, and (14) extension of the Political Parties Act (PPA) to FATA.
He even ordered the government to provide legal aid to Dr Aafia Siddiqui in order to appease the religious fanatics.
Those legions of journalists, politicians, goons and blackmailers who have been acting as mafiosos during Zardari’s time will find out the difference when a non-PPP government deals with them with an iron hand for criticising it. The pseudo-knowledge and bogus truisms the media has constructed about Zardari are a cynical mix of facts and fantasies. Frenzy has triumphed over reason.
The writer is the author of Two and a Half Words and Other Stories. He can be reached at email@example.com