Candidacy of Asif Zardari for President of Pakistan and Sindhi Interests
By Khalid Hashmani, McLean, Virginia
Every one has right to express their opinion about public figures. In a vibrant democracy robust disagreements are not only acceptable but ought to be encouraged, as it is often necessary and right for the development of best course of action. At the same time, sarcasm, summary judgments, heresy, and innuendo, particularly against the chief of the largest party that only few months ago secured overwhelming majority of votes in Pakistan and Sindh is not only unfair but an insult to the people of Sindh. Indeed, Mr. Zardari is a controversial figure in Pakistani politics. However, if one takes a closer look at the facts surrounding the allegations against him, one would realize that almost all of these allegations are pure heresy and driven by anti-PPP and anti-Bhutto sentiment. Even a fair-minded enemy of Mr. Zardari would agree that he has been the central figure in finding solution to peaceful departure of General Musharraf. He has been instrumental in the holding of the coalition government in spite of inflexible attitude of Nawaz Sharif, and has ensured that the voice of smaller provinces is given its due weight in decision-making process. For these reasons, I believe he will be a great President of Pakistan, balancing views of all provinces until constitutional amendments are made to grant provincial autonomy in accordance with the 1940 Resolution and equal seats to each province in the Pakistani Senate.
A recent editorial in The Daily News, one of the largest newspapers in Pakistan, said the following about Mr. Zardari:”. . he is the only man in the political system who can communicate with all the components of it, including the military establishment with whom he has worked out safe passage for General (retted) Pervez Musharraf and with which he needs to work closely on the war on terror in order to keep Washington in the right humor.”
“He has handled the inflexible Mr Nawaz Sharif right by using resilience in the face of the “pledged” party position of the latter on the judges issue.”
A keen observer of Pakistani politics would easily recognize that where as other partners in the coalition (ANP, JUI, and MQM) have largely played as team players in the PPP-led government, PML-N has been playing all kinds of tricks to pull down PPP and discredit its leadership. PML-N has refused to cooperate with PPP in bringing about the necessary constitutional amendments that would restore the deposed justices in an orderly manner. It has played the games of leaving and then re-joining the coalition. This leaves no option for PPP and other coalition partners to ensure that the next President does not have any overt or covert sympathies with Nawaz Sharif and PML-N to dismiss the PPP-led government as happened before to PPP.
The rumor is that PML-N is going to nominate a former justice as President, who opposes the PPP-proposed method of restoring deposed justices. However, simple math tells us that except in Punjab, an overwhelming majority of the legislators in three smaller provinces would vote for Mr. Zardari.
Let us objectively look at the known facts about Mr. Zardari:
1. The last government incarcerated Mr. Zardari for more than eight years. They left no stone turned in their attempt to prove that Mr. Zardari had siphoned large sum of monies. They even approached foreign governments and promised to give evidence about his guilt. After spending millions of dollars and taking exceedingly long time, they did not find any evidence and had to set him free.
2. After joining PPP, various anti-PPP governments have charged Mr. Zardari with a litany of bizarre allegations ranging from tying a remote-controlled bomb to the leg of a businessman, murder of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, corruption, kick-backs, and firing on MQM camps. A newspaper quotes Mr. Zardari saying the following about such allegations against him:
“A corrupt person wouldn’t have taken on the establishment, wouldn’t have sacrificed eight years of his life in prison. I could have accepted a deal and got out, and kept them happy — that’s what would have benefited me most.”It must be noted that not a single case of corruption has been proved against him so far.
2. No Pakistani politician with the exception of his father-in-law, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was judicially murdered, has suffered for such a long time in a Pakistani prison3. In spite of several well-documented offers to Mr. Asif Zardari to make a political compromise, Mr. Zardari stood on his ground until the government became tired of hold him in a jail.
4. Many NGO and other impartial observers say that since the PPP government has formed the government, some signs of improved opportunities for Sindhis have started appearing. The Sindhis, who have suffered many years of neglect during the regimes of Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif are beginning to see some hopeful signs for overcoming poverty. In a recent e-mail by Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Halepoto told North American Sindhis that:
“How I can tell you that how things are getting changed here in Pakistan? And especially for/ in Sindh. MQM is exposed, PML-Q ministers are voting in the favor of impeachment, agencies are exposed, and Musharraf is humiliated because of his illegal and unconstitutional conduct. Democratic forces (yes we know it is not an ideal situation) are led by Sindhis.”
POSITIVE CONTRIBUTIONS IN LAST FEW MONTHS
1. Played a central role in convincing the dictator to resign and peacefully resolving one of the major issues of Pakistan that many feared would result in much blood shed. 2. Consistently, Mr. Zardari has showed the Sindhi trait of “Nuiwarat” (humility) by disarming his political opponents with love and forgiveness and avoiding any conflicts. He was instrumental in creating a grand coalition of three largest political parties of
Pakistan representing all four provinces. Using the same traits, he has succeeded in diffusing situation in Sindh, where the racial divide between Sindhis and Mohajirs was fast approaching the boiling point. 3. PPP Government announced permanent shelving of Kala Bagh Dam. The “establishment” had sold this project to the people of Punjab as if constructing this dam was a non-negotiable patriotic duty. No federal politician would speak against the project and yet PPP led by Zardari made the historic decision.
NEGATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS IN LAST FEW MONTHS
1. “Federalization” of Coal Authority. This was an attack on Sindh’s rights that even present centralization- centric constitution does not allow. 2. The apology to MQM that implied as if Sindhis were the only wrong doers even though they were the real victims of terrorism of MQM.
SARCASM, INNUENDO, and HERESY AGAINST MR. ZARDARI
As I said disagreements on political matters are expected and criticism of political figures is a norm. Any allegation or point of view must be supported valid arguments. The sarcasm, innuendo and heresy I see in some e-mails on Mr. Zardari have no place in political discourse.
August 24, 2008