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October 13, 2010

The eternal victim

October 13, 2010

Are we heading for all-out confrontation? This certainly seems to be the case after the president has, once again, gifted us with a few more pearls of his infinite wisdom. His party, he tells us, has never had a square deal when in power and that elections have 'never been held in a free and transparent manner'. We assume he is referring to his own election as co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party as well as general elections in our past. Once again he has treated us to the usual outing for the anti-democratic forces that are besetting him from all sides. Those in uniform, he says, 'played a joke' with the country but the joking days are past and they will never joke again – at least not with his party. The president has portrayed himself and the PPP as the eternal victims of dark external forces and the military – his argument in the latter case having some weight – but it is his failure to engage with reality that leaves us wondering what kind of delusions the president suffers from. Laden with rising bills, angered by corruption, distressed by inflation and essentially at their wits' end – people seem to be in no mood to rise up to the cause of the government they elected in 2008. Mr Zardari has spoken of 'never going back one step from development' – not of itself a difficult goal as there has been little meaningful development for the people under this government. Surely the president must realise that the dangers come chiefly from people sickened by the corruption they see even as they themselves struggle to survive. Successive polls have shown a decline in the standing of the government and especially the president himself. He cannot put it all down to some conspiracy by the 'anti-democratic' forces he attacks.
We can only ask quite what the government is trying to achieve or where it is headed. We have heard similar words from Mr Zardari many times. They have coincided with no real attempt to correct flaws in the working of the

government – and this is dangerous for the country given the pitfalls on the path we are walking on. It is the president's failure to realise this which makes one wonder if there is indeed an element of authenticity behind the claims about mental – as well as physical ill-health – he made before the Swiss courts while defending himself there. The threat by Chaudhry Nisar to produce in parliament the medical certificates presented to foreign courts as evidence of Mr Zardari's unfitness to testify before them bears close examination in this context. The nation has a right to know about its leaders and their mental frame. Two New York-based psychiatrists delivered diagnoses in March 2007 to the effect that Mr Zardari was suffering "emotional instability, memory loss and concentration problems, and major depressive disorder". Consequently Mr Zardari was excused from appearing before the court. It would perhaps be improper to suggest that all his symptoms are present today, but there again symptoms such as these may take years to abate, if they ever do. We are a troubled nation living in troubled times and have, judging by his public-speaking performances, a troubled president to lead us. We wish him, and ourselves, a speedy recovery.

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