ASIF ALI ZARDARI
Extract from my article dated August 27,2008, titled "After Tricky Mush, Tricky Zardari" at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers29/paper2824.html
The US and Musharraf, in their own ways, have been trying to ensure that Zardari is elected (as the President) and Nawaz is marginalised. Like Zardari, the US does not want the reinstatement of Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury since he was keen to enquire into the cases of missing Pakistanis, many of whom were informally and illegally handed over by Musharraf to the US intelligence on suspicion that they were having contacts with Al Qaeda. The US feels uncomfortable with Nawaz for the reason that he has been calling for major changes in the policy of co-operation with the US against Al Qaeda and the Taliban followed by Musharraf.
Even though the US does not rate highly Zardari's leadership qualities, it prefers him to Nawaz because of his willingness to maintain Musharraf's policy of co-operation with the US in its so-called war against terrorism in Afghanistan and his perceived amenability to pressure by the US because of its role in persuading Musharraf, when he was the President, to issue the NRO ( National Reconciliation Ordinance). The US is also hopeful that, unlike Nawaz, Zardari will avoid any humiliation of Musharraf and will let him continue to live in Pakistan without fearing any harassment by the Government.
Musharraf has not been inactive since his resignation. According to well-informed MQM sources, he played a role in persuading Altaf Hussain to support Zardari as the President. Musharraf has similarly been trying to persuade the PML (QA---Qaide Azam)) to withdraw its candidate and support Zardari.
After 9/11, the US tried to project Musharraf as its frontline ally in the war against terrorism. He did co-operate, but not whole-heartedly. It is now hoping that if elected as the President, Zardari will co-operate with it without reservations. Zardari is giving the impression that he will. It is most likely that he will turn out to be as insincere as Musharraf. He will give the impression of co-operating while avoiding it in effect.
Extract from my article dated October 9,2008, titled "President Zardari---Forward & Backward" at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers29/paper2874.html
While his (Zardari's ) instincts in relation to India seem to be refreshingly different from those of his predecessors----even from those of Benazir who instigated terrorism in Kashmir when she was the Prime Minister---- his grasp of the ground realities in Pakistan is weak. The ground realities are determined by four entrenched mindsets, which have always been opposing any fresh thinking on the relations with India. These entrenched mindsets are those of the Army, the intelligence community, the Foreign Office and sections of the political class with a close nexus to the Army and the intelligence community.
Unless these entrenched mindsets are made to change, new thinking alone, however welcome, will remain just loud-thinking without any follow-up action. To be able to translate any new thinking into action, Zardari has tro stabilise his position as the President, acquire a popular image and acquire the ability to enforce his will on these entrenched mindsets. No previous political leader of Pakistan was able to acquire such an ability and had to ultimately bow to pressure from the Army, the intelligence community and the Foreign Office.
Zardari has been the President hardly for a month and it is too early to say whether he would be able to bring about such a change in the mindsets. India has to keep patience with him without expecting quick policy changes. At the same time, it should not lower its guard till the ultimate reality emerges---- is it refreshingly new or more of the same as seen in the past?
The current position in Pakistan is complicated by the emergence of a fourth important power ---- Al Qaeda. The future of Pakistan is going to be determined by a configuration of four As---Allah, the Army, America and Al Qaeda. The outcome of the fight between the Army and America on the one side and Al Qaeda on the other will determine whether Zardari's tenure will see a change for the better or the worse in Pakistan.
Extract from my article dated February 28,2009, titled " PAKISTAN BACK TO BEING PAKISTAN" at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers31/paper3074.html
The US has reasons to be concerned over the developments in Pakistan. There is a trust deficit between it and Nawaz. It continues to back Zardari who has shown himself to be as amenable to US wishes as Musharraf, if not even more. It continues to encourage Gen.Kayani to back Zardari. But Zardari's mishandling of the political situation could come in the way of the US operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban at a time when the Obama Administration is re-tooling its Afghan strategy
Extract from my article dated March 14,2009, titled "ASIF ALI ZARDARI : WHAT A MESS! " at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers31/paper3098.html
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 late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto took six years to destroy, Zardari has destroyed in six months as the President----- namely, the credibility of Pakistan as a State, its institutions and its unity as a country and as a people.
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: email@example.com )