Tuesday January 18, 2022


December 24, 2021

Asif Zardari’s statement that he “was asked to offer assistance and share some formula, but he told them that first this government should be sent packing and then talks could be held” has raised a few eyebrows. Without naming the people he was referring to, he went on to say that “building Pakistan was easy, but they could neither build, nor listen and understand. But a time would come when they would have to listen, understand and follow our advice”.

The provocative statement sent conspiracy theorists weaving their tales of deception to sell to a public that is starved for just such kind of news. I remember the last time Asif Zardari tried to steal the thunder by threatening the military leadership about the limited tenure they had in power and the longevity of politicians’ careers, he was quick to catch the flight to stay away for close to two years. This time around, because of a number of cases against him which are pending in various courts of law, he cannot leave the country. Does it mean that not naming the source was a mechanism to get away with his diatribe, or is he indulging in dangerous brinkmanship to save his tottering political empire?

First, who are the ‘they’ that he has talked about? The last time he did it, he came out with names and the institution. But, this time around, it is a veiled threat. In order to actually ascertain the veracity of the statement, one will have to begin with evaluating the PPP’s political relevance and future in the given circumstances.

The PPP’s majority in Sindh is the result of the same elections that its leaders don’t tire of dubbing as ‘engineered’. The provincial government has been under increasing pressure because of its blatant corruption and lack of delivery to the common people. Through the three years of their current stint, they have remained focused on further stuffing their personal coffers with scant care for the sufferings of the impoverished communities. This state is not hidden from anyone, but no amount of criticism has had any impact on those who command the party’s reins. They have continued unabashedly in their nefarious and anti-people pursuits.

In the meanwhile, they have also aborted the PDM ship to present themselves as an option for a change if one was ever envisaged. This was a smart move as the leading constituent of the so-called movement, the PML-N, appears to have run its constitutional course by going overboard in their scathing criticism of the military and the alleged role it played in facilitating a victory for the incumbent PTI government. The problem is that, with time, the venom of their outpourings has not decreased. As a matter of fact, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Safdar don’t ever let an opportunity slip by without pouring scorn on the military establishment for having deprived their family of its oligarchic right to rule the country.

The younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, who is far more cunning and deceptive, has played a game of varying hues, but has restrained himself from joining the vituperative father-daughter duo openly. Though not enjoying any political support on his own count, he has repeatedly succeeded in positioning himself as an alternative to his older brother.

Both these parties are also adept at playing their ethnic cards. The PPP has played it often for Sindh while the Sharif brothers are the architects of fanning ethnic divide in Punjab. In simpler words, the state’s interests notwithstanding, leaders of both parties will not refrain from using any tactic that advances their political interests.

So why is it that Asif Zardari, with depleted political relevance and jaundiced credentials, has gone public claiming that he has been contacted for helping out in the current circumstances? And why is it that, despite his unfathomable corruption and that of the trail of his cronies and sycophants, he would still be perceived as a potential saviour of the country? Or is it that the fallaciousness of the statement can be traced to the fact that he did not name the power that contacted him? Or, does the statement reflect the growing despondency that is getting hold of the PPP leadership knowing that Sindh may be slipping out of their hold after multiple years of uninterrupted and excessively corrupt rule, this being a desperate bid to try selling their stock to the potential bidder?

The reason could be one or the other of these. The truth is that ever since Prime Minister Khan assumed charge and started trying to correct policy fault lines there has been a ceaseless campaign against his government on one count or the other. The principal objective of this vituperative tirade has been to deprive his government of its legitimacy and potential to deliver Pakistan from the evil clutches of those who have ravaged it through decades of their misrule. This is in addition to the role that these dime-a-dozen sell-out parties have played in Pakistan’s dismemberment and its plunge into the debt trap making it difficult to exercise its sovereignty. By any stretch of imagination, can such people be perceived as potential saviours of the country, or are they the ones who would again happily push it down the slide into oblivion?

But I am not surprised. When you have the unflinching support of the merchants of the written and spoken word, those who would try desperately to hoist the flag of corruption on the country simply to secure their silver coins, it becomes easily comprehensible. One always knew that this incorrigible ring of corruption linking the beneficiary elite, bureaucracy, judiciary, media, and just about everyone who has had a stint in the power echelons and has got used to its lucrative dividends, would not be easy to break. It is the power of the pelf that binds them together tightly. They scheme together, they operate together, and they indulge in illicit loot together. It is a nauseating ring, and Asif Zardari would be the most deserving mentor of the band with the Sharif tribe following in his footsteps.

As for the government, it appears to be coming out gradually from the lethal effects of the pandemic which struck the entire world, including Pakistan. Despite difficult times and evil machinations of the corrupt mafias combine, Prime Minister Khan has stuck resolutely to his cardinal agenda of establishing the supremacy of law over all, including the beneficiary elite who have scavenged the state of its assets and promise for umpteen years.

Asif Zardari’s statement is nothing but an anguished act of dangerous brinkmanship for letting him be of some service, or one should be hearing from the unnamed bidder!

The writer is the special assistant to the PM on information, a political and security strategist, and the founder of the Regional Peace Institute. The writer tweets @RaoofHasan