Monday, 12 December 2011

Zardari will return in a style, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Zardari will return in a style

Dr Shabir Choudhry 11 December 2011

Last week it appeared that Asif Zaradri, President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Supreme Commander of armed forces was on the run to save his life, not because he was under attack by some enemy country, but because he feared that institutions of his own country will take some action against him and might put him behind the bars.

Asif Zardari very mysteriously left the country for Dubai under pretext of ‘ill health’. His ruling party and all Presidential staff looked unprepared for this sudden departure and were in shambles. They were contradicting each other as to what was wrong with their leader and the President, and failed to provide satisfactory replies. They looked part of a team that suffered a defeat and did not know what justification to provide to their supporters.

Whereas this news created chaos in Pakistan; it also unnerved many outside the country as well because Pakistan - a nuclear country with unstable government is an important partner in war against terrorism. However, relations between Pakistan and the United States deteriorated over the months due to conflicting interests and continued violation of Pakistani territorial integrity; and it looked that both were heading for some kind of armed conflict.

No doubt Azif Zardari was under extreme pressure over the past few weeks, and that exacerbated his health. Tension and political pressure gave him sleep less nights, no doubt, but doctors in Pakistan were quite capable of treating him in Pakistan, so why fly out to another country. Did he not trust the Pakistani doctors, or he thought some unforeseen powers might harm him even when he was treated. It looks he wanted to leave the country under cover of the illness. If he was seriously ill, flying out to another country could only add to his health problems. No sane doctor will advise a patient with heart attack or stroke to take three hours flight to another country, as that has its own dangers.

It appears that the ‘treatment’ which Asif Zardari’s ailing political health and declining political fortunes required was not available in Pakistan. Power brokers or ‘specialists’ who can provide power booster to Azif Zardari and save his Presidency hold surgeries in Dubai. He had to travel to Dubai, even if that meant taking some risks; and tell them nature of threat to his Presidency and Peoples Party government.

There are five important people with power and influence in Pakistan, namely General Kiani who has a power base in Rawalpindi, Nawaz Sharif with a power base in Punjab, Imran Khan with a power base in Aab Para, Chief Justice with a power base in Supreme Court and Asif Zaradri with a power base in UAE.

Prime Minister Gilani, though legally a Chief Executive of Pakistan, has a limited role as he derives his powers from Zardari House. His main task is not to govern the country for benefit of the people, but to provide support to Zardari and company and cover all the marks and tracks leading to Zardari and Bhutto family. Of course he was given a free hand to make whatever he can for himself and his family.

Anyhow Asif Zardari made it to Dubai, and once again became focus of attention around the globe. Among conflicting news about his health it was learnt that he was recovering well - why not, specialists knew what to do; and within few days his team back home was in a position to boast that Asif Zaradri is not among those who run away in fear of his life.

It is presumed that he told the specialists that he has done everything he promised to do, and has, in fact, done some extra bits to demonstrate his worth and ability. In return he was assured that there would be no military intervention, and no other action to dethrone him, at least for five years. He must have told them that instead of getting some bonus for his performance, and for doing extra bits, he was being forced out of office. He must have told them that his down - fall will have very serious repercussions on war on terrorism; and could bring havoc to the entire region.

Peoples Party government and Asif Zardari’s other colleagues and friends have recovered from the shock of his sudden departure to Dubai. They now feel confident that despite serious cases against them in the Supreme Court, Memogate, Salalabad attacks by NATO, Abbotabad fiasco and with many other things there is no immediate threat to their government or at least to their President.

Many members of the Pakistani establishment and some opposition leaders believe that Zardari was the man behind the Memogate; and in their view this is treason. Critics believe he is against the army and the ISI; and by hook or crook wants to bring them under his control. However some analysts question why the army would want him out when he does exactly what he is told.

In any case, even if he was behind many alleged ‘crimes’, can he be removed legally. There could be no impeachment of the President, as the required numbers are not there in the Parliament. He is not the kind of person who would resign as a result of political and other pressures. One can dislike him or hate him, but credit goes to him that he is a fighter and shrewd manipulator with strong nerves.

Of course, the Supreme Court can take some action which could end his rule. But the question is, won’t that give the most corrupt and unpopular government a justification to go to the people and create chaos in the country, even leading to some kind of civil war by playing the Sindh card.

This kind of action could be unpopular even among some lawyers and some sections of the establishment, which could further divide already embittered and deeply divided society. Some sane voices are saying that we have tolerated worst kind of corruption and maladministration in the past four years, can’t we wait another 5-6 months as the government will be forced to hold elections after the Senate elections in March 2012.

In view of some it is better to get rid of the government as soon as possible, especially before the Senate elections, as that would strengthen their political position in the Upper House no matter what the outcome is of the next general elections. The other view is that it would be unwise to make a political martyr when his government is unpopular and has failed to deliver to the people and will not be in a position to win the next general elections which they will have to hold after March Senate elections.

In my view Asif Zardari knows what is at stake – he knows what life is like in Pakistani jails. Even when he is fully ‘fit’ and despite assurances and power boosters he will play safe; and won’t go to the President House until he gets a green signal which could take a few more weeks. Important events are unfolding in Pakistan in the form of Supreme Court cases, NRO, Memogate investigation and Abbotabad Commission report; and he is not a fool to rush to Pakistan when the exit route is not assured.

It will be safe for him to stay in Dubai, take rest, plan his next move by closely observing the situation and start his offensive while resting in Dubai. His team and government have recovered from the initial shock, and are getting its act together. They have great experience in fighting legal cases and delaying the final outcome especially when the going is not favourable. They have also mastered the art of making deals with various stake holders. They also know how to win public support and play ‘victim’, all they need is some assurance from President Zardari that is physically still sound and plans to come back.

In view of the above, in my opinion, Asif Zardari is out of danger and he will return to Pakistan in a style; and possibly with more power and influence. His return and increased power and influence will weather the political storm; and will help him to plan his second tenure as a President.

Writer is Director Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir


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