The Zardari Pinata


Source: Pak Tea House

By D. Ashgar

Lately in many discussions, about various events which have unfolded in Pakistan, it appears that Pakistanis in or outside Pakistan, find only one person responsible, its President Asif Ali Zardari. To clarify, I reside in the US, have no affiliation with him or PPP. As a teenager, when I was in Pakistan, I admired ZAB, but according to my analysis, the ideals of PPP died along with ZAB on the ill fated day of, April 04, 1979.  Even late BB, failed to impress me as she made some huge blunders, and used ZAB’s name to advance her political career. There is no denying of this fact, that till this day PPP, uses ZAB and now BB as well to tap into the vote banks. It is the sheer charisma of ZAB, which still resonates with the masses.

Getting back to our infamous President, the blogospheres are on fire chastising him for almost any and everything. Whether it is the bomb blasts, floods, mob lynching or cricket betting scandal, he seems to be the target of everyone’s scorn. Undoubtedly, AAZ has a questionable past and his actions subsequent to taking the oath are definitely worthy of criticism, but definitely not worthy of any military intervention.

We get to hear pleas emanating from London, to change the feudal culture and political landscape of Pakistan. This to me and many others, is quite troubling. Amazingly, the proponents of this sweeping change have always formed the convenient alliances with the feudals in the past. The print and electronic media is creating its own hysteria and it appears that talk show hosts on many popular channels have pretty much made it their source of livelihood to demean and berate AAZ.

The conditions and events in Pakistan become, a topic of heated discussions in the living rooms here in the US. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of educated, liberal and law abiding Pakistanis tilt towards a “quick     fix” and want either the military to intervene or they want a “sweeping revolution.” Very few want the process of democracy to evolve and mature. The convenient reasons given to justify their rather illogical stance is, “Pakistan is not ready for democracy”, “Democracy has always failed”, “Politicians are corrupt”, “You think military was bad, see what worst is, GOD has brought HIS wrath in the form of AAZ.”

AAZ has made his share of follies, after replacing Musharraf. Arguably, he may be one of the most corrupt Executive of the country, but to replace him, Pakistanis need to exercise the legal and democratic means available to them. Having witnessed Clinton’s impeachment process, I can state that, it was an impressive demonstration of how mature institutions function. Similarly, as painful as 8 years of Bush Presidency were, the US citizens demonstrated their disdain on election day, and brought a rather inexperienced Obama to power.

The repeated argument presented by the military loyalists is the extent of corruption. In my opinion, the rampant corruption stems from two basic elements, an empty stomach with very limited source of income or too much on hand and the limitless greed. The history of corruption in Pakistan, predates many Zardaris. The set up of government institutions back in the 50?s with inherited British style of bureaucracy provided the foundations. In all these years, regardless of military or civilian governments, the government still functions on the same paradigm. To expect any miracles from the cancerous system, just because the in charge is a General, is quite a utopian hope in futility.

As it is quite obvious that, the elements behind the upheaval are the ones, who do not want the process of democracy to strengthen. Pakistanis want a messiah to come in and rid them from the myriad of the problems they face. Whether it is soaring inflation, unemployment, law and order, terrorism, corruption and poor governance. The argument presented by the critics of a civilian government is that politicians are there to fill their coffers and tend to play “musical chairs” with one another, but do not want to solve the problems of the masses.
The military has been a tested institution and brings “law and order” under control. This is quite lame of an argument, as Musharraf regime had a serious law and order issue. Then feudalism is considered a major impediment in the formation of the “will of people” by the military loyalists. The military and feudals have a lot in common. Both are authoritarian and many military people hail from feudal backgrounds. Many politicians welcoming the military are feudals. So rather than introducing a bill on the floor to end feudalism, we want the military to take reins and run a “national government” comprising of ”like minded” politicians, some if not many representing the feudal background.

No matter which way you cut or slice, no matter how many justifications of democracy and democratic process are presented, the people are unwilling to buy. It is  ”Zardari bashing” which has become the favorite past time for Pakistanis in and out side of Pakistan. Beating the Zardari Pinata provides a psychological relief to many. What we fail to realize is, all means are available to us within the framework of a democratic process. Whether it is a no confidence motion for the PM, mid term elections or a potential impeachment of a President. It is high time that we start developing and fostering the democratic norms and stop relying on the short cuts, which have brought us to such a disastrous state.