Happy birthday President Asif Ali Zardari!
Back in 2007 as the lawyers’ movement gained momentum, it attracted abrupt attention of a youth brought up in the ‘prosperity bubble’ of a military regime. With little sense of our history and politics, many (including me) got carried away in the sway of events that followed. More in sheer aversion for a uniformed dictator than in admiration of a principled man in robes.
Putting out the fire of secessionist sentiments in Sindh after the assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in the garrison city of Rawalpindi was met with utter disregard by the self righteous urban bourgeoisie and their corporate media. Five years down the road, there is an entire collection of ‘Pakistan khappay’ (Sindhi for “May Pakistan flourish”) jokes to mock and ridicule one man at the expense of federation.
Keeping a profoundly wounded PPP together to steering the party in electoral victory of 2008 general elections were mere glimpses of a man who went to shape broad-based coalition governments in provinces and the centre for the first time in an untoward democratic history of Pakistan. Ousting a military dictator through dialogue and ascending to the presidency with an overwhelming majority impaired the nefarious designs of vultures in hiding. Thus began another tumultuous phase of our political history that divided Pakistan between the ‘good’ and the ‘Zardari’.
Old rusted machines got a new life, churning decades old propaganda on behest of ‘dangerous duffers’ who now felt vulnerable, and rightly so. The 18th Amendment, flight of undemocratic powers from the presidency, a sprint to normalise relationships with India and most importantly the devolution of powers to provinces are unprecedented achievements of President Zardari and his government. Though massive issues of governance confront the ruling coalition, they need to be seen in a much broader perspective than a meagre four years of the current setup for political point scoring. If not much, food security despite two massive floods; nearing single digit inflation despite domestic security issues; a world wide economic crunch and injecting more than Rs500 billion to rural economy for the first time are achievements downplayed by the critics.
Personally I believe, President Zardari’s acute capability to negotiate and avoid political confrontation is novel to the political landscape of a country marred by many a political battles lost to men at their best. Keeping political coalitions intact ─ notwithstanding huge differences ─ for a five year term is no ordinary accomplishment. Putting an end to politics of confrontation reflects Zardari’s political acumen.
Asif Ali Zardari has been demonised by state apparatus ever since Benazir Bhutto’s first government came into power in 1988 to mould public opinion not against the PPP, but the entire political class and the democratic process. This has had a counter-effect in my opinion. It has kept Zardari at bay from populist politics and given him liberty to take difficult and, at times, unpopular decisions.
I am sure there are many who may not value it and troll around on my post, but I want to confess that you are not a politician but a political institution, you are not patient but a sea of patience, President Zardari. You are strongest president, both in terms of its electoral support and parliament. You refused to be the proxy for any revered institutions in Pakistan. At least, we are confident that Pakistani will cast their votes under a civilian government.
We stand right next to you.
Happy birthday, President Asif Ali Zardari!
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