Pakistan Observer

Zardari’s swan song

News & Views

Mohammad Jamil

Saturday, June 15, 2013 - President Asif Ali Zardari addressed the joint session of the Parliament for the record sixth consecutive time, but this time round in a comfortable ambiance. He avoided controversial issues and congratulated Mian Nawaz Sharif. Members, both from treasury and opposition benches, applauded him by frequent thumping of desks. President Asif Ali Zardari harped on the role of the Parliament for having democratized the Constitution. He saw no room for dictatorship in today’s Pakistan. He asked the new Parliament to devise an ‘appropriate policy’ on punishment so that no one could dare subvert the Constitution in future. He said that the suspension and abrogation of the Constitution was an act of high treason. But Article 6 of the Constitution is quite clear on the punishment to those who abrogate the Constitution along with those who aid and abet the dictators. In a veiled reference to military and judiciary, he said: “Let no one think of subverting the Constitution. No court shall validate it.”

The fact of the matter is that in addition to the courts, parliaments also validated the acts of the dictators through various amendments to the Constitution. However, there was a contradiction in President Zardari’s speech. On one hand he talked about punishing the violators of the Constitution, and on the other he stressed the need to avoid confrontation and pursue “reconciliation” by setting up a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’. It is true that almost all political and religious parties and their leaders have at one time or other aided and abetted military dictators. Therefore, no political party could boast about its democratic credentials. Judiciary had also provided legitimacy to the military dictators and granted permission to dictators to amend the constitution, which right it itself did not have. During the last 65 years, Pakistan has faced multi-faceted crisis, and once suffered the trauma of disintegration. Today, Pakistan is again at the crossroads; it is facing multifaceted crisis, and threat to its internal and external security.

Indeed, there is need for unity among the political parties and organs of the state, which could be achieved by establishing truth and reconciliation commission where all politicos and organs of the state should acknowledge their mistakes, aberrations and flawed decisions in the past. At the same time they should forgive and forget to make a fresh start. Although the conditions were different in South Africa when Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed, yet both sides had forgiven and forgotten the excesses of the past. Anyhow, President Asif Ali Zardari instead of giving advice to parliamentarians should do a bit of introspection, and identify the reasons for being wiped out of three provinces. The May 2013 general elections saw the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) having lost federal credentials and becoming a regional party almost confined to Sindh. In fact, the PPP-led government has been at loggerheads with military as well as judiciary.

Apart from that, the PPP during the last five years failed to come up with any concrete development project, which could have been politically sold in the elections. The PPP leadership tried to capitalize on constitutional reforms and amendments to the constitution. Some analysts and political eminences may have appreciated those measures, but the people at large were not impressed by those amendments because there was nothing for them in those amendments.

In fact, the party did not put up any serious effort in mobilizing the people, and only relied on a massive electronic and print media campaign. The PPP had failed on many counts. Energy crisis and extensive load shedding had made the lives of the people miserable. His most bizarre decision was making Raja Pervez Ashraf as minister for water and power, as he has been a source of immense disgrace to the party because of his involvement in the rental power projects scam causing scores of billions’ loss to the exchequer. Yet, he was elevated as prime minister after Yousuf Raza Gilani was removed by the Supreme Court.

One week after the May 11 elections, President Asif Ali Zardari told a gathering of party ticket holders at Bilawal House Lahore that some national and international forces had hatched a conspiracy to ensure that the PPP did not come into power. In an apparent reference to Pak-Iran gas pipeline project and an agreement on Gwadar Port with China, he said that the international forces were unhappy over these decisions. The president also blamed the Returning Officers appointed by the Election Commission for their covert support to the PML-N candidates, as they had delayed the results to maneuver the final count. The real problem was that the party went into elections leaderless, as he was barred by the apex court from conducting political affairs and Bilawal Bhutto was confined to video messages due to threats from the militants. Already, the stories of corruption by the prime minister and other ministers haunted the PPP leaders and workers had put the leaders and workers on the defensive, who could not face the barrage of accusations from the opponents and the media.

The PPP government rightly claims the credit for amendments to the Constitution, but in essence members of the ruling elite were the beneficiaries, and people did not directly benefit from those amendments. People suffered from unemployment, ever-rising prices of essential commodities and electricity and gas shortages. They wanted economic opportunities, jobs and livelihoods to see some respite in their miserable unlivable lives. However in the present system, which is plutocracy, there is a complete dichotomy between the outlooks of the leadership and the masses. The leadership felt so elated about the constitutional reforms and amendments that it thought could be the best thing ever to have happened to this nation. But masses give not even two hoots to them when those have brought no happiness or good to their depressed lives. The nation has yet to see yesteryears opposition and now PML-N leadership’s vision or creative ideas to fix this broken economy.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

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