Friday, March 13, 2009

ASIF ALI ZARDARI: WHAT A MESS!

B.RAMAN

No other leader of Pakistan has ever created such a huge political mess in such a short time as President Asif Ali Zardari has. What the lateZulfiquar Ali Bhutto took six years to destroy, Zardari has destroyed in six months as the President----- namely, the credibility of Pakistan asa State, its institutions and its unity as a country and as a people.

2. Z.A.Bhutto came to office after the defeat of Pakistan in its war with India in December 1971, with considerable goodwill not only in Pakistan, but also in India. He was the toast of the people of Pakistan and its army after he succeeded in persuading Indira Gandhi, the thenIndian Prime Minister, at the Shimla conference in July,1972, to release and return to Pakistan nearly 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war, whohad surrendered to the Indian Army at Dhaka at the end of the war.

3. Thereafter, his arbitrary style of governance, his intolerance of opposition and a free media, his jealousy and suspicion of political rivals, his indifference to the grievances of the Balochs and the Pashtuns and his use of ruthless methods against his political opponents resultedin a no-holds-barred confrontation in the streets between him and his opponents. The Army under Gen.Zia-ul-Haq, who had been hand-pickedby Bhutto as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) superseding other capable officers senior to Zia because of Bhutto's confidence in Zia'spersonal loyalty to him, moved in to take over power. Zia set in motion the train of events, which led to the execution of Bhutto.

4. It took a little more than two years for the negative traits in Z.A.Bhutto to come to the fore and transform him into a possessed mandetermined to destroy himself. It has taken hardly a few weeks for the negative traits in Zardari to come to the fore----- the same arbitrarystyle of governance, the same intolerance of opposition and a free media, the same jealousy and suspicion of political rivals, the sameindifference to the grievances of the Balochs and the Pashtuns, the same use of ruthless methods against his political opponents, the sameinability to see the writing on the wall.

5. The writing on the wall is there for all to see------ ras-le-bol as the French, who came out in the streets in 1968 shouted. Meaning "fed up".Large sections of the Pakistani society are just fed up with him. But, he doesn't realise this.

6.The rest of the world was not as much concerned over what was happening in Pakistan in the 1970s as it is now. In the 1970s, whenZ.A.Bhutto was ruling, there was no jihadi terrorism, no Al Qaeda, no Taliban, no danger of jihadis getting hold of nuclear material. Only India,being the neighbour, was concerned over the mounting opposition to Z.A.Bhutto.

7. Today, Zardari is the President of a country, which is the spawning ground of all the jihadi terrorist groups of the world which pose athreat to international peace and security. His inability to focus on the fight against terrorism and his playing petty politics against hispolitical opponents at a time when a jihadi tsunami originating from the jihadi epicentre in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) isthreatening to sweep across the country is a matter of concern not just to India, but to the entire world.

8. Instead of realising the gravity of the situation confronting Pakistan as a result of his sins of commission and omission, he seemsdetermined to continue on his path of confrontation with the opposition forces led by Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister.Neither friendly,but firm warnings from the US and the UK nor reported expressions of concern by Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the COAS, have had anyimpact on Zardari so far. Even if he is prepared to restore the Government headed by the Pakistan Muslim League *(Nawaz) in Punjab,which he removed so arbitrarily, he seems disinclined to make any other compromise in order to defuse the confrontational atmospherebuilding up in the country.

9.If the confrontation continues, will Gen.Kayani take over as Zia did in 1977? As of now, Kayani seems disinclined to take over. He hadseen for himself how unpopular was the military rule under Gen.Pervez Musharraf. He had also seen how he was hailed by the people ofPakistan when he ordered after taking over as the COAS, all army officers in civilian departments to return to the barracks. He knows that ifhe took over he would be seen as no different from Musharraf, Zia, Yahya Khan and Ayub Khan. According to reliable sources close to theArmy, he would like to go down in history, like Gen Abdul Waheed Kakkar and Gen.Jehangir Karamat did, as a well-liked General who couldhave taken over if he had wanted to, but refrained from doing so in the interest of the country.

10. At the same time,he is reported to have made clear to his political masters that he would be constrained to intervene if the confrontationis not defused and the security situation in Pakistan further deteriorates as a result of it.

11. Zardari and his advisers may succeed in thwarting the so-called Long March to Islamabad by the opposition, but this is unlikely to helphim in regaining his credibility and the country's goodwill which he seems to have lost.

12. This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of February 28,2009, titled "Pakistan: Back to Being Pakistan" athttp://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers31/paper3074.html

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

3 comments:

Raymond Turney said...

Hi,

Have to agree that under Zardari, things have gone to hell pretty quickly, even for Pakistan.

That said, I'm inclined to wonder if there aren't some deeper structural problems in Pakistan that it make it very hard to govern. Neither Zulfikar nor Benazir Bhutto really did well and they were both sharp and charismatic. I'm not an admirer of Nawaz Sharif, but here in the US we've had people worse than him. At some point, when no matter who you try seems to fail, it is time to assume the system has structural problems.

Also, as a US citizen, I'm inclined to wonder who the US could support as an alternative. Nawaz Sharif may not be terrible, but he is too closely tied to Saudi Arabia for my taste. General Kayani is a skilled military officer. But the military is a very different environment from the civilian world, and it is hard for a good military officer to become a good political leader. It is even harder for a military officer to get the political support needed to suceed as a politician.

So what the US should do is not obvious. It also has enough other problems so that there is a good chance it will end up dithering.

Pakistan is also likely to remain hostile to India, no matter who wins.

If people want to read more from me, I have a blog called Remember Jenkin's Ear at:

http://www.rememberjenkinsear.blogspot.com/

Good Luck,

Ray

Cato Elder said...

Im curious to know, is there any truth behind Indian involvement in Baluchistan and the tribal areas or is it usual Pakistani blame game politics.

prashant khanna said...

Interesting, they say(I read it somewhere), "In Politics 7 days is a long time, but in Pakistan it seems 5 hrs are longer".
Raman, would you please shed some light on ONE man in middle that is "chief justice Iftekhar Mohammad Choudhry", he seems to be, one common subject since Musharraf era, and why is he so-un-re-instate-able (pardon my new dictionary)(All I know, that he was ousted because he took the cases of missing persons in Pakistan, which are probably sold by Paki govt to US and are in Gitmo bay, but he did worked well for Musharraf in legalizing him and other decisions what latter wanted him to give, I could not understand, why he is a no-to-a-deal-man?? and Nawaz S.simply took advantage of, would even Nawaz S. abide by his promise? )

Adding few more lines,
1> He( "chief justice Iftekhar Mohammad Choudhry) was partially the reason behind Musharraf Oustage.
2> Now if becomes the same for Zardari( Zardari is no fool, he was able to see this problem coming, why and what compelled him not to re-instate Iftekhar Mohammad Choudhry).

he is on center stage, Why is he so important ? and not simply picked by Nawaz S.