What shoe-throwing won’t achieve

Published: August 11, 2010

What could President Zardari have achieved by cancelling his trip besides scheduling photo-ops?

Tired due to the prolonged special transmission on flood relief, I was trying to unwind in my office when a senior colleague came dancing to my chamber. “What is the good news?” I asked him thinking of some big accomplishment in relief efforts. “Someone has thrown a shoe at Zardari!” he exclaimed in joy.

I was simply shocked. Here was a career journalist, otherwise supposed to be neutral, and tasked with overall responsibility of the office, absolutely radiant with joy, over an incident of national humiliation if not petty worth. I immediately switched my television on to learn more. The media was ecstatic. Most of the channels had forgotten the floods and relief efforts and were obsessed with the apocryphal piece of gossip which lacked even a shred of credible evidence. I surmised that the Islamic republic is back at what it does best: scapegoating.

It is impossible for me to justify the foreign visit of President Zardari. I have little doubt that the time spent abroad could have been put to better use for the sake of morale boosting.  But that’s that. Here is a state imploding in front of the burden of its innate contradictions, natural calamities and the sheer opportunism of the entire nation, and we are busy blaming one man. Again, I cannot digest the official claim that the president was oblivious to the scale and nature of the calamity. A head of state cannot hide behind the excuse of ignorance. If he didn’t know at first, he could have obtained information and cut short the visit to rush back to the country. Yet, I cannot deny either that we have this knack of undermining the scope of a tragedy or disaster, sidestepping the main issues and blaming one person for everything.

Tell me what could the president have done? Even if he could ignore the fact that he was nothing but a titular head of the state after the eighteenth amendment? He could have gone to visit some flood affected areas. There our complaint would have been that the president was busy in photo-ops. And due to the mere photo ops the entire district management, otherwise entrusted with overseeing the relief effort, was busy in receiving and entertaining his person. So had he not gone abroad, our displeasure would have still been unaffected.
Frankly there are two major reasons why all this anger is pouring out against President Zardari. One smacks of good ol’ realpolitik, the other of obscurantism. The first reason is that our defense establishment was not too chuffed about our president’s visit to the UK so soon after David Cameron’s statement in India. The very statement in essence is connected to the second reason. The fact remains that our nation, courtesy the very establishment and the mainstream (read right wing urdu media), is highly obscurantist. While the state apparatus has been forced to fight the fundamentalists (emphasis on mental!), our nation (primarily our Punjabi brothers essentially because they can afford such kind of entertainment) think that it is an unjust war and that the Taliban have quite the right idea. Since the war continues, first Musharraf was evil and now President Zardari is. Most of the people I have interacted with think that the Almighty is punishing us through the floods for:

(1) fighting and killing the virtuous (read terrorists),

(2) the presence of the current rulers.

My question is simple. If the Almighty is so angry with the rulers why doesn’t he punish them directly rather than taking innocent lives? Or else the truth is that religion has nothing to do with our current state of affairs and incompetence and ineptness of state has more to do with everything.

Had we not been so obscurantist we could have tolerated any form of government and tolerated enough to let the democratic institution building process take root. But no our zealotry will ensure that this government will go and so will the next and the next. And yet we will never find solutions to our plight.

The real stakeholders were the democratically elected chief executives of the federation and the federating units and the army chief being the uncrowned king of the country. But you will never hear any intellectual or media person complaining about the army chief’s visit to the UAE in this hour of national catastrophe and devastation.

The fact of the matter is that instead of assuming the responsibilities of a nation state, we as a nation want to be a pan Islamic global movement which exports terrorism as a cause. Had our focus been nation and institution building believe me our troubles would have been over already. But we are more focused on supporting the Taliban than actually building bridges and dams (is Kalabagh the only dam that can be built?).

This streak of obscurantism translates in our security doctrine as well and somehow we fail to put an end to the blackmail of the terrorists. To me, anyone who believes that he has a right to coerce me into doing anything represents the Taliban. Till the time we do not finish such people, statements will come from foreign leaders. If you want to know our exact moral fiber, you should go to bazaar in the flood affected areas or even during Ramazan check out the prices being charged staple food. Only then will you understand our double standards and moral decay.

And till the time these issues are resolved, removing Zardari, Gilani, Shahbaz Sharif or any other leader will resolve nothing.  A mere incident of shoe throwing can never change our destiny.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • B

    Excellent, very well-putRecommend

  • abid

    I cannot thank you enough for writing this!Recommend

  • Shayn

    First of all let’s talk about democracy, well more than 30% of our adult nation is not eligible to vote because either they do not have NICs or perhaps because of the lack literacy. Then apart from that most of the voters who come from villages or rural areas are paid off by their feudals of landlords( who most likely are the ones that stand up for seats in the government during elections). It is very seldom that a member of the provincial assembly or national assembly would be from a middle class background. So what I’m saying is that there’s a filthy cobweb created by the most of the people in the government belonging from feudal backgrounds, that control and pass rules that pretty much suit themselves only. Mind you but one cannot say that democracy exists in our country. The president was not selected by the people. As far as the incident regarding the show thrown on the president is concerned… well that is a true form of resentment and anger that the whole of nation is experiencing within themselves. This act is a step towards democracy, it’s a way of expression. The President was on official yet he made his entry in a pair of lose jean, well this for a fact shows that he was rather enjoying himself than actually acting like a nations leader. In strong disagreement i say that the President should have been in the country during the floods rather than feasting in England and buying properties in Europe. Now what would our presidents presence do? Well it would reflect upon him the image of a concerned leader of a nation that Is in dire need of help and restoration. Democracy is yet to be found in our country it I’d hidden in the darkness of illiteracy and the powerless. The meaning of democracy is not shouting and making passionate speeches in native languages. Uneducation is the first and foremost issue that needs to be tackled in our country, then only will democracy set in.Recommend

  • Shayn

    *was on a official tour. *loose pair of jeans. *it is hiddenRecommend

  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson

    Power Hungry Pillars of the state are out there to pull each others legs, be it people with Jack Boots, the opposition, and those who always ride two horses at a time. The comments pouring out from the Supreme Court on some important cases are also showing us the mood of this Pillar. Now comes the Media which is playing the most dirtiest game of recent time in the history of our country. These so called intellectuals are only grooming the already confused population towards a road which will lead us to no where by making mockery of the democracy. People or those who are cracking jokes on the incident in UK (shoe throwing) at the President of the Islamic Republic Of Pakistan (here I am talking about the Office not a person) must get “Chitraul” in a Pakistani Punjabi Style for committing this act against an elected and not selected Head of the State. We all know that there are some Planted Anchor Persons who always are ready to act as “His Master’s Voice”. It is time for all the important Pillars of the State to sit on one table and decide for once all all what do they want, Pakistan or Individual Glorification. Recommend

  • Khadim Husain

    Zardari appologits have no wisdom to watch written in the eyes of public. Shoe throwing is a metaphor and protest. Don’t throw public in a close street, ultimately peoples have no power to challange thugs except to show anger.Recommend

  • faraz

    I agree, Punjab provides moral support to terrorists, and people here had no problem as long as the terrorists were killing people in FATA and Malakand. And they see nothing wrong with the jihadi policy which is mainly based on religious exploitation of poor youth in the name of jihad. Recommend

  • Umar

    The article is wonderful and well written, i believe you have truly written an article that is not bias. One should bring to there mind that the media is not an instituition of democracy but a business monoply with each benefitting itself by feeding people spicy gossips, flaring debates and controversial ideas. They do not have any rules that bind them nor are all the news reliable ” three weeks back there was news mullah umar was captured whitch turned out wrong. I believe the media is becoming a bully which is influencing people to the views it wants to broadcast, nb remember a couple weeks back journalists and t,v anchors met mr.nawaz sharif and all of a sudden the medias tone towards pml-n changed and a tuff stance was taken against ppp. Many inquiries have started against pml-n but there reports never make it out and news is broadcasted for 2-3 days and silence. The media just says that it is just bring the truth to the people but it is not it is fueling hate for people like zardari. I believe that mr. zardari is the bravest of our politicians he spent 9 years in jail and i still remeber visiting him in jail. And when i visited mr.nawaz sharif in his vvip jail with ac, television, books, and food other then daal you’ll then know. Nawaz sharif got zardari totured, beat and god knows what 9yrs in jail is alot yet mr.zardari still met nawaz sharif smiling and unlike the pml-n leaders he did not set out to get revenge.Recommend

  • Bilal sheikh

    indeed he got lesson from his own worker realised him that you are not required to make fake statements regarding abrupt change in lives of people in shape of visits, but required to be in home.

    Since, he got lesson afterwards or not lets see in upcoming times.Recommend

  • Ghausia

    Most people I talked to admitted throwing a raucous impromptu party over the shoe, myself included. The shoe is a symbol of the nation’s frustration with Zardari’s moronic bumbling ineptitude and his inability to do anything right, other than still be President and still be alive.Recommend

  • saher

    a very well written blog. our leaders wont change unless we change…. and we are just not willing… it is always easier to blame. we love to blame others.. the feudal, the rich, the politicians, the army.. the bureaucrats the journalists.. dont we all belong to one or more of them.. y not change ourselves to change the institutions.Recommend

  • Umair

    This is very well written peice and has correctly pointed out reasons behind Zardari Bashing by right wing obscurantist organs led by Urdu Media with covert support from establishment.
    One of the reasons which the writer must have brought out behind the thinking of this class is the approach of majority of urban educated middle class, which has its heavy presence in civil military establishment who formulate our socalled doctrines.It is because of them that we are still stuck with our passion for pan islamic powers/boundries, be it strategic depth, conquering srinager or winning freedom for palestanins.Recommend

  • kim chim

    I am sick of people like you trying to defend Asif Zardari. Let’s face it he is an ineffective leader. What do leaders do in times of crisis? They rally around their people and get people motivated,into action! Zardari has failed the nation and should be ashamed of himself, he should have cut his visit short and come home, and shame on you for justifying his actions!Recommend

  • Shayn

    I agree with Kim chim. And the yes the president was elected but by whom??? Most people I know were not in favor and still aren’t. Our assemblies hardly represent our needs. And as far as the jail thing is concerned it is not something to be proud of nor does it represent bravery, the question is why was he in jail in the first place???? He was there because of his criminal acts. The show throwing is symbolic to the nations voice and resentment. The only person who needs a ‘chitraul’ is the leader only. Its high time someone stood up and expressed themselves. I’m truly sick and tired of people supporting and defending our president for his wrong doings. Everything is crystal clear incrobt of us, crime rate is at it’s peak, the general price level is at it’s peak, fuel costs are ridiculously high, the law and order situation is unstable, we don’t have enough police personnel to control the law and order situation and yet our leaders manage to roam around with unnecesarry police protocol, disregarding the amount of personnel, fuel costs and waste of resources. But yet people seem to find way and justify these wrong doings of our leader(s).Recommend

  • Ammar

    @kim chim & Shayn,
    People who elected him do not score points on cyber space and tv screens. so keep up your commentaries :)Recommend

  • Mansoor Hussain

    There are times when I shudder to think what will happen to us, specially in Punjab, if God-forbid Zardari somehow disappears, as we wish all the time. At the moment we know the cause of every tragedy, misfortune, disaster – personal or political, natural or man-made. It is always , without a shadow of doubt, Mr Zardari! So, Mr President, please stay on if only for the sake of the mental health of our nation consisting mostly of people who desperately need an instant scapegoat for all our ills.Recommend

  • Shayn

    Yes for one thing they do score points on tv screens believe it or not. And this is a blog so im free to express my opinion. Mr Zardari is not and instant “scapegoat”, he is the the very true reason for some issues to have affected Pakistan. As far as the removal is concerned well in that case you or other people ‘who think zardari is a scapegoat’ may realize where all the problem roots from once he is removed. I just dont understand that why are people set out to defend him??? Tell me one positive thing that has happend since he took seat in his office? The thing is democracy in our country does not exist in reality at all, democracy is just a label that is yet to be applied in our country. What he did, was wrong, as a leader who should have come back and not stayed in Europe. Now people will argue what would that have achieved, well his presence could have boosted the morale of many people in the country, I mean this is not a way a leader should act. Yes we know he was there to get aid(which our country will never get), but that could be possible without him being there as well! I cannot digest the fact that people are defending him and are okay with him going on tours and feasting off. What a shame!!! The shoe incident should have occured ages ago, its high time “SOMEONE” stood up agaisnt the evil of the so called fake democracy. Recommend

  • ansazafar

    ‘If you want to know our exact moral fiber, you should go to bazaar in the flood affected areas or even during Ramazan check out the prices being charged staple food. Only then will you understand our double standards and moral decay.’
    ‘Anti-gouging laws have gained support in recent years by their alleged ability to protect the public from deception and ensure the availability of essential goods after a disaster. In the last two decades, several states, including Texas, have enacted price gouging laws. Price increases in times of disaster may simply represent a natural response to reduced supply relative to increased demand. In such instances, the price increases should not be considered gouging. Disasters often lead to shortages, which in turn leads to price increases. Higher prices may be more of a reflection of supply vs. demand, rather than a deceptive practice of the seller. The line between gouging and supply and demand pricing is not always clear. However, businesses would be well served to resist the temptation to dramatically increase prices during times of disaster. Recent cases make it clear that the Texas Attorney General is willing to prosecute those businesses that violate the law. ‘

    Why isn’t our govt looking into the matter to see whether the prices are raised because of more demand or because some people are using this opportunity to make huge profits for themselves. Why don’t we have laws in place which look into these matters and protect the public from such unethical practices?
    As far as democracy is concerned much more drastic action is needed in Pakistan.
    One needs to pay something like 15 million pakistani Rs. today to become an MNA which enables you to get a party ticket and perhaps 12 million Rs. to become an MPA. You pay 25 lakhs to be a appointed a patwari today a job which brings you a salary of 500 Rs. per month. Once you become a patwari your future is made . From the Patwari to the most senior minister in Islamabad most everyone is on the payroll. Pray tell me how can an honest common person ever hope to stand in an election and represent the interests of his community when he will never have that kind of money unless he is hugely corrupt ? Recommend

  • ansazafar

    ps. I would like to know what the present govt. is doing to change this or is it simply cashing in on what is because everybody else does and has ??Recommend

  • kim chim

    I agree with Shayn. We can be the ‘nay sayers’ and say nothing else has worked, let’s give the ‘devil’ a chance. well the devil has had his chance and to what result?
    The tragedy is that we accept mediocrity whether it’s from tin pot military dictators or corrupt politicians! it’s about time we stood up and said no more!Recommend

  • Shayn

    The last three posts- finally and thank you for voicing correct opinions for once in the whole of this blogRecommend

  • meena

    Excellent column….ppl like u make us proud… :)Recommend

  • Naqi

    Brother just answer me a single question Shoe throwing on Mr president is an humiliation for us but do you not really think an Islamic country’s president begging before some non Muslim who has already kicked you hard is humiliation …Recommend

  • ansazafar

    Mr.Zardari’s trip was paid for by the tax payers money. It seems to not matter that he used this money to pay for his hotel expenses , travel expenses, security plus public money is spent on board and lodging of his vast entourage. We live on borrowed funds can we please not forget this and put them to better use.
    Mr.Zardari should not have been elected in the first place. The people of Pakistan did not vote for him . He along with Mr. Sharif and many others should have been in court facing the charges against them and cleared their names IF he were not guilty. However sadly the people of this country had faith in the people they elected and to our horror and dismay they chose to give MR. Zardari a post he did not and does not deserve . They should have been prevented from doing so. They made that mistake at the expense of the whole nation and we are now suffering as a result of this. Clearly the system has not worked to protect the interests of the people of Pakistan or the country. Recommend

  • http://xehra.wordpress.com/ Xehra

    I guess we should now stop blaming our people for electing him as the President because the vote bank was clearly for PPP not for the widower of the party chairman. Despite all the open secrets that tell us ‘who’ did ‘what’ and ‘how’ , this point of yours makes great sense that we can’t blame a single man. Probably we are too frustrated to think what we should do in order to change the system. This whole ‘outburst’ is due to this reason only. :) Recommend

  • Farhat

    Yes a hurled shoe might not change anything but history will always remember that a president partying over burnt cities, death of drowned and gloom of billions IDPs received a shoe.

    It’s not a humiliation. This is what he deserved.

    I totally agree, Zardari is of no use, whether he’s in Pakistan or outside. Only a human would have stayed in Pakistan and motivated his party workers to help people; devised plans for relief; monitored rescue operations etc; Not Zardari.

    But since shameless Zardari had to gain the shoe hurling event under his name, he went to UK and received what he deserves in abundance.Recommend

  • Aamer Khan

    What an utter load of rubbish…..WHAT COULD HE HAVE DONE? He could have not spent hundreds of thousands of rupees on his “official tour” which was undertaken for the sole purpose of launching his son’s career….and spent that money in the affected areas. Recommend

  • kim chim

    Well put Farhat!Recommend

  • Shayn

    Haha Aamer Khan, i totally agree with you. I mean theres no use supporting him, for touring and feasting away in Europe after all we know it was (us) the tax payers money who was being used to pay for his travelling expenses.Recommend

  • Think therefore

    We should move away from this mindframe of “aik zaradari qom pay bhari”… we are all to blame…
    What if God were to follow these floods with years of drought?
    We are a nation that condones corruption, promotes nepotism, approves jobbery and discounts any efforts that make us accountable…Flood or not… we are doomed if we keep up our ways…Recommend

  • ansazafar

    You are probably right in what you say. We need to be pro active and work to create a country we can truly be proud of .
    We deserve the leaders we get and you may be right since we have displayed such great apathy in the past ii is time for change. We need to understand our own role in creating a healthy viable democracy and see to it that it works for to respond to OUR needs and helps promote a bright future for our children. Recommend

  • S.J.

    if any one is justifying/supporting the act of hurling a shoe at the President then he/she ought to support wat happened in sialkot…both the acts show our barbaric mentality which is a result of our lack of trust on the justice system prevailing in the country.Recommend