Reminder on Zardari’s Woes (April 05, 2010) Business Recorder

Asif Zardari – glory without shine!

The President wants to claim the credit for striking down the controversial clauses inserted in the constitution by military rulers. But the limelight on him would filter through the film of corruption allegations, thanks to the active Supreme Court.

Nobody is giving him credit for initiating the process by demanding formation of the parliament committee for cleansing the constitution from the virus loaded on it by the Zia and Musharraf regime. To the President’s misfortune the media space is being equally claimed by the roaring judiciary. It has taken the government to task for not writing to the Swiss courts for reopening the case against the President. The dilly-dallying by the government in the implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision has brought the wrath of the judges.

President Zardari’s behaviour and his cronies have not been very helpful to his image builders. His previous image as a corrupt man could not be redeemed, in spite of some courageous statements on the National Security issues by him.  For which he had to suffer severe criticism from the Khaki co-evolutionists. Everybody, including Ms. Bhutto, was aware that the public perception about AZ was far from good. Even some PPP leaders agree privately that AZ is being over ambitious. But they do not have the courage of Brutus.

The counter argument is that he was elected by the majority of the presidential Electoral College and that shows that he has the support of the representatives of the people. PPP supporters say grudgingly that only the newly independent judiciary, cribbing middle class intellectuals and a section of the media is against the President.

When Mr. Zardari contested the presidential election I had suggested that the role model should be President Ch. Fazal Elahi, as envisaged in the 1973 constitution given by the PPP founder Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Initially he tried to transgress this role and play the all powerful Musharraf. But by honouring the CoD signed by his leader and wife Benazir he has given up all the powers horded by military rulers in the office of the President. And now constitutionally he would be Ch. Fazal Elahi. But that he continues to retain the leadership of the ruling party which gives him a lot of power for bringing in an in-house change if Prime Minister Gilani would stop listening to him, the co-chairman of PPP.

In spite of this positive move it seems that at present President Zardari’s woes are not over. The plot against him is thickening. Gauging from the mood of the honourable judges there is a strong possibility that his immunity would be struck down by the Supreme Court. As a matter of fact asking for the reopening of the Swiss case against him the court has implied that the President does not have immunity. This has not provoked the government so far to seek the courts verdict on immunity. The Swiss position which is now being aired is well known that they cannot try a President of a country if he has immunity at home. Another view is that to prove the money laundering case against Zardari he has to be convicted in Pakistan for taking the kick backs. So far there is no such conviction as the Lahore High Court’sdecision in this regard was turned down by the Supreme Court as a mistrial.

Now once again the people are in suspense as to what will happen to the President once his cases are reopened. President’s friends say that he will continue contesting the cases without resigning from the post. The moral pressure which the court and other lobbies want to build to dislodge him would not work. “He is a fighter and would go down with his gloves on,” one journalist who knows him closely observed. Even if he leaves he has his position covered doubly — the next president if he steps down would be his close friend the Senate Chairman or the National Assembly Speaker who is also a PPP loyalist.

It is because of such legal complications that usually civilised politicians resign when they are indicted in a case. But of course this happens in the countries that have democratic traditions and a neat balance among the three pillars of democracy. Pakistan does not fall in this category. Hence this drama has not climaxed yet. Stay tuned, no matter how tired your nerves are! (ayazbabar@gmail.com)

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