The writer is a former ambassador.
The Zardari credo: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his friend’s for his life’ was in action as Yousuf Raza Gilani was led to slaughter. And even as his head was being held up for public gaze by the judge-run Election Commission yet another – Makhdoom Shahabuddin – was en route to the scaffold; alas, he met his end before he got there. And now it’s Raja’s turn.
Allegations of corruption against most of those in Zardari’s coterie are as long as one’s arm but those against Raja exceed the length of the entire body. In that sense he was the logical choice for the PM slot in a kleptocracy like ours. Why else choose someone whom the public holds responsible for their suffering and needlessly raise everybody’s hackles, includingthose of PPP loyalists?
Equally inexplicable, and therefore suspicious, was the ease with which Zardari was able to force his selection down the throats of allied parties. What was the payoff? There had to be one, considering they are all in it to rob. Besides, the kind of unity on display was not merely unnatural but incestuous.
We will know the answers to these questions soon enough; but what we will never know is how the other parties expect to live down their decision to support Raja; and no one person more so than Saleh Faisal Hayat, who voted for Raja although earlier he had termed him “the bane of Pakistan.”
If there was any love for democracy among the masses the election of Raja will have put paid to it. It’s now impossible for an intelligent and well-informed person to seriously contend that our politicians are capable of self-improvement. It seems best to embrace the doom assigned.
Almost from the first day the regime took office, it was expected to fail or be kicked out. Why and wherefore it was not has many explanations, save to say that those who swore that crime does not pay will be hard put to it to explain why the Supreme Court, having had Zardari in its crosshairs for nearly four years, failed to act. And curiously their anger and sense of failure has made it easier to speculate what’s in store for the coming months.
From the current shambles and the merry-go-round of prime ministers, a “caretaker” or, someone who could be more appropriately called the “undertaker” prime minister will be conjured up. The foremost tasks assigned to this nemesis of Zardari will not only be to write the now infamous letter but also refer the matter of presidential immunity to the judiciary.
It will be a historic judgment, but a predictable one. It will reflect public opinion more than law but that’s the besetting sin of most democracies.
It won’t really matter what people say about the judiciary being hyperactive, discriminatory, fixated on getting rid of Zardari Inc; overstepping its authority, etc., etc. The court will be viewed as doing the right thing, even if it is for the wrong reason. And that will suffice to appease an infuriated public which blames Zardari for all their suffering and desperately wants to see the back of him.
But considering how often Zardari has been in a scrape and emerged none the worse for it, some feel it is much too early to write the last chapter, much less “finis,” on his regime’s fortunes. However, even the proverbial cat has only so many lives and Zardari has exhausted his. The only question that remains is whether he will go before the elections at the hands of the court or, as many would prefer, at the hands of the electorate. That’s important, of course; not that the public cares. They’ve had it up to their gills with this caricature of a government.
Some will say that it did not have to end like this. But not those who, in the words of Proust, were only too well aware of “the shadow which past knowledge and experience throws in front of us.” For them Zardari’s presidency was always a doomed project and a scary prospect. It was unimaginable that a man like him would be tamed by the responsibilities of office. Fundamentally Zardari can no more get along without being involved in some form of business or political intrigue, as others can without eating and sleeping. As for his politics, for all the talk about reconciliation, it is not enough for Zardari that he succeeds in getting his way: his opponents must be seen to fail.
A self-proclaimed “know all,” Zardari seldom suffers self-doubt. That’s a pity, because he’s clueless about foreign affairs, for example, and completely oblivious of the bad impression he is causing. (In contrast, the dour and tongue-tied Sukarno left the task to the brilliant Adam Malik.) Zardari is much better at domestic politics, but he is hardly the genius some make out, considering that his popularity which was as high as 40 percent or thereabouts immediately following the 2008 elections, has now fallen off the charts. It seems that if he learnt anything from his wife’s experience it was how to repeat the same calamities all over again.
However, what should bother us about Zardari’s tenure is not so much whether he stays or goes, or even how that happens, but how he has lasted as long he has while living in a fantasy world and recreating through the imagination make-believe stories of the direction in which we are headed and banking on imagination and fiction to fool us into giving him another term. Now and then, Byron said, we can “agree to a short armistice with the truth,” but surely not a perpetual alliance with falsehood.
Zardari has not presided over a failed state as much as state failure, and a massive one at that. No doubt, he inherited a fairly decrepit outfit, but after much sweat, hunger, mourning and thirst, we are worse off than before. The prospects of our material and social needs being addressed shrink by the day. Five years on and all we can remember is what Zardari should and could have done, but did not.
The key to successful planning lies in effective management. True crucial skills can be found in unexpected sources. Even Raja, had he been able to bring practical abilities to the business of his ministry, could have offered hope that as prime minister he would be able to run the country as effectively and efficiently. Instead, his performance as water and power minister was abysmal, so much so that Zardari sacked him and, Lo and Behold! Zardari now expects us to believe that a man who could not run a ministry will be able to run the country, and that too at this incredibly sensitive juncture of our history.
But lest some get overly depressed, take heart: there is nothing wrong with us that a miracle cannot fix.