Sticks, stones and President Zardari

Author: Fasih Ahmed

In a country of oral traditions, questioning hearsay is heresy. Institutions and individuals in Pakistan offer little by way of hard, actionable evidence especially when revealing matters of financial and moral impropriety

The president is facing “an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organisations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false.” The president is facing “an enraged right that denies the legitimacy of his presidency, that eagerly seizes on every wild rumour manufactured by the right-wing media complex.” The president is facing an opposition that “cannot be appeased” for “the truth is that the attacks on the president have no relationship to anything he is actually doing or proposing.”

Of course, this recent articulation by Paul Krugman of Barack Obama’s problems applies perfectly to our own president. The problem with Asif Ali Zardari, conventional wisdom informs us, is the fact that the perception of his alleged misdeeds has acquired mythic proportions. The legend of these alleged misdeeds that has snowballed over the last 20 years is so grand, so pervasive, so ferocious, and so widely fed without veracity that anyone else’s misdeeds, alleged or otherwise, then pale in this unreal comparison.

The opposition has no qualms siccing its dirty tricks brigade on the government and feels no shame in politicising national tragedies. When the Manawan police academy was attacked, Punjab’s then-deposed chief minister came on television and blamed the Punjab governor and Mr Zardari for the terrorist attack. He said such attacks would never have happened on his watch.

Punjab has been the scene of some of the worst terrorist attacks in our history since his provincial government was reinstated: the destruction of the Rescue 15 building, the assassination of an Islamic scholar who stood against the Taliban, and Gojra. All this happened on Shahbaz Sharif’s watch. Yet, no news channel set his post-Manawan boast to Indian music in agitprop promos to shame him, and no government/party spokesperson chose to draw political blood from these tragedies.

Mr Sharif’s party and brother are now making efforts to woo the Pakistan People’s Party voter by depicting themselves as the true legatees of Mr Zardari’s late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Considering that it was the last Sharif government and not the part-military, part-potato government of President Pervez Musharraf’s that forced Ms Bhutto into self-exile and threw Mr Zardari behind bars and tortured him, this is some parallel universe.

Speaking about the then government’s several kindnesses, Ms Bhutto wrote the following in her diaries in 1997: “A witch hunt…still continues. That night of November 4, 1996, my husband was kidnapped by security agents. He was produced 48 hours later after we raised a hue and cry. For eight months he has languished in a prison cell in solitary confinement, with temperatures soaring to 48ºC. He has not been indicted in a single case so far, despite the government’s tall claims”.

She further wrote: “My mood has not improved with an unsubstantiated report that some elements wish to burn down my house in Islamabad and make it look like a short circuit.”

So is the PPP taking a high road to the PMLN’s vexatious high jinks?

Probably not willingly, because it is evident the party lacks the executory and moral capacity to unleash similarly rabid and scurrilous attacks to get even. In today’s media-based politics, this may be a fatal miscalculation. The downside of playing by the PMLN’s rules is that the resultant bloodbath would leave no politician standing and another suspension of the democratic order may then become inevitable. However, the PPP cannot be solely held responsible for saving the hard-won democratic order.

There are cultural realities, too, that make matters worse for Mr Zardari and his party’s government. In a country of oral traditions, questioning hearsay is heresy. Institutions and individuals in Pakistan offer little by way of hard, actionable evidence especially when revealing matters of financial and moral impropriety. The ratings war among cable news channels launders and sanctifies this hearsay and splenetic hypocrite after spluttering hypocrite is rolled out without dissection or dispute.

In all of this, the economy gets broken. If the Shaukat Aziz government taught us anything, it is this: the economy can survive suicide bombings, but not a sensational media trial. Like with Mr Obama, sections of the media here are also furious about the election of Mr Zardari to the nation’s highest office. This disbelief feeds into their eagerness to judge-and-jury Mr Zardari.

We have non-profit organisations here that preach about cultivating a culture of “zero tolerance” for corruption. That’s nice. How about we baby-step to there by starting with cultivating a culture of zero tolerance against hearsay? If you come at corruption from an absolutist point of view, everyone falls down. Journalists far braver than your columnist have written extensively about corruption (see the works of Ardeshir Cowasjee).

Yet, even if it is used as an excuse for abbreviating the terms of elected governments, corruption has never been a deciding factor at the polls. It is for this reason that Imran Khan is still an upcoming politician. That is not to say that there is no corruption or that corruption is kosher. Corruption in its many manifestations must be exposed and eliminated. But the where-there-is-smoke crowd may agree that sometimes corruption is just shorthand for nothing else left to lob at the government. (Daily Times)

The writer is a businessman and journalist. He can be reached at


آخری گزارش ہمیں قبلہ آصف علی زرداری سے کرنی ہے کہ جناب پارٹی معاملات پر آپکی گرفت بتدریج ڈھیلی پڑتی جا رہی ہے اور وہ ’’بلاول کارڈ‘ جس پر آپ ضرورت سے زیادہ تکیہ کئے بیٹھے ہیں‘ وہ معجزے ہرگز ہرگز نہیں کر سکے گا جن کی آپ کو توقع ہے کیونکہ نوجوان تو ابھی تعلیمی مراحل ہی مکمل نہیں کر پایا‘ وہ سیاست کو وقت کس طرح دے گا۔ سو بہتر ہے کہ آپ فی الحال یوسف رضا گیلانی پر ہی اکتفا کریں کیونکہ جس تیزی کے ساتھ انکی اور شہباز شریف صاحب کی دوستی پروان چڑھ رہی ہے‘ کوئی بعید نہیں کہ یا تو گیلانی صاحب نواز لیگ میں شامل ہو جائیں اور یا پھر یہ دونوں احباب بہلا پھسلا کر میاں نواز شریف کو پیپلز پارٹی کا چیئرمین بنوا دیں اور آپ صرف انکے منہ ہی دیکھتے رہ جائیں۔
اپنی اسٹیبلشمنٹ سے بھی ہمیں بس یہی کہنا ہے کہ بلوچستان‘ سندھ اور خصوصاً کراچی کے حالات فی الحال ایسے ہرگز نہیں کہ ’’مائنس ون‘‘ یا اس سے ملتا جلتا کوئی بھی اور پنگا لیا جا سکے۔ ہمارا ذاتی گمان تو یہی ہے کہ آپ احباب کی طرف سے اس کام کی تیاریاں نہایت خشوع و خضوع کے ساتھ کی جا رہی ہیں مگر ہمارا بن مانگا مشورہ یہی ہے کہ آپ اس سے گریز ہی کریں تو بہتر ہے کیونکہ پاکستان کی حالت اب اس دانت کی سی ہو چکی ہے جو آئے دن کسی نہ کسی حادثے یا چھوٹی موٹی ٹکر کے باعث کافی کمزور ہو کر ہلنے لگتا ہے۔ چنانچہ جب تک آپ اسے بارِدیگر مضبوط نہیں کرتے اور اس کے گرد و پیش کو درست نہیں کرتے خدارا تب تک باکسنگ کے اس کھیل سے اجتناب ہی برتیں جو آپ ہر تین چار سال بعد کھیلنے لگتے ہیں۔ حالات اب وہ پہلے جیسے نہیں ہیں۔ بجلی اور چینی کے ستائے لوگوں کو تو صرف بہانہ چاہئے۔ اس لئے مائنس ون یا مائنس آل کی بجائے ’’پلس آل‘‘ پر ہی توجہ مرکوز رکھیں کیونکہ صورتحال پر اب آپکی گرفت وہ نہیں رہی جو کبھی ہوا کرتی تھی۔
آگے آپ کی مرضی کہ ہمارا کام صرف سمجھانا ہے اور وہ ہم نے کر دیا۔ اب آپ جانیں اور آپ کا کام

Aftab Iqbal – Nawaiwaqt



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