ISLAMABAD, Sept. 9 — President Asif Ali Zardari has never been a political animal. His father Hakim Ali Zardari was a parliamentarian of the Pakistan People’s Party during the era of Mr.Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but he switched sides after Bhutto was deposed and hanged by military dictator Gen.Ziaul Haq.
After Mr. Bhutto’s downfall, Hakim Ali Zardari became provincial president of Awami National Party of Sindh.
Upon Benazir Bhutto’s an unprecedented and historic return to Lahore in April 1986, there appeared no other politician as popular as Bhutto’s daughter. She pulled crowds in millions wherever she decided to address the people of Pakistan.
Being a single unmarried lady, Benazir Bhutto felt handicapped at times in a male-dominated society to carry forward her political life in a Pakistan where then Military dictator General Ziaul Haq had already developed serious differences with his handpicked Prime Minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo.
The atmosphere was quite conducive for the PPP leader Benazir Bhutto to take on Ziau Haq on the street level, but her mother, Begum Nusrat Bhutto, was more worried for Benazir’s would-be life partner.
Begum Nusrat Bhutto and the second wife of Hakim Ali Zardai Timmy Zardari worked seriously on the plan to organize Benazir’s meeting with Hakim Ali Zardari’s son, Asif Ali Zardari, who was only famous then for polo and as the “Playboy of Karachi”, having one personal discotheque.
It remains a big mystery what exactly charmed Benazir Bhutto to accept the proposal from the Zardari family. But the main players remained Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Timmy Zardari.
Benazir Bhutto happily married Asif Ali Zardari and was smart to keep her personal life very private. She had conceived Bilawal, but it remained a secret, as Benazir never wanted to mix family with her organized public rallies.
When she gave birth to Bilawal it was indeed big news for journalists and General Ziaul Haq’s intelligence outfits.
General Zia sacked his Prime Minister Junejo in 1988. His death on August 17, 1988 still remains a mystery and many players point fingers here of there.
Benazir twice became prime minister of Pakistan, and twice she was sacked on corruption charges.
Finally after having an arrangement with domestic and international powers, Benazir Bhutto made her second historic return to Pakistan, pulling crowds along the way. She was assassinated under mysterious circumstances after addressing a mammoth public rally at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Garden on December 27, 2007.
Asif Ali Zardari became heir to the Bhutto dynasty accidentally. He expressed his reluctance to honor his commitment to Vice Chairman of the PPP, Makhdum Amin Fahim, for he promised premiership to one of the highly respected saints of Sindh. His decision to have Sayed Yousaf Raza Gilani from Punjab as premier, and ignoring a fellow Sindhi Makhdum Amin Fahim, was a clear indication that his eyes were set on Presidency.
At that moment it was quite foreseeable that Zardari was heading for the top office.
In his pursuits for wider national reconciliation, Asif Ali Zardari smartly managed to forge alliances with strange bedfellows. From Mian Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League to Altaf Hussain’s Muttehida Qaumi Movement, Zardari forged political and administrative alliances.
After spending one year in high office, political pundits are saying he has not filled the leadership gap in Pakistan.
The military still seems to be out of civilian control, militants are far from annihilated, and the economy is yet to get back on track.
Others acknowledge that so far he has averted the worst fears of his friends and foes. That is to say, he has not sold off state property for a song, there have been no major financial scams bearing presidential fingerprints, and he has not traded state secrets to unfriendly powers.
During his one year’s tenure he freed Pakistan’s nuclear scientist Dr. A.Q. Khan, freed and restored Chief Justice Iftkhar Chaudhry, and in his wisdom agreed to introduce several Constitutional reforms.
One has to critically examine the situation. Are the failures his or those of his team?
Zardari’s blunders include when he made his first attempt to undermine the strong military institution by placing Inter-Services Intelligence under the Ministry of Interior. The army assumed responsibility over defense affairs in the mid-1950s and has since expanded its influence to other spheres of government, including foreign policy.
Mr Zardari cannot purge this influence from the system in a short period, or on his own.
Another area where President Asif Ali Zardari is highly criticized by common Pakistanis and a majority of opposition leaders is that during one year he spent 94 day abroad. His foreign tours mostly emanate from Dubai. Here finger-pointing starts about major deals and agreements. Though none of his foes has so far offered any fresh case of corruption, people do question his lengthening absence from Pakistan.
His little education and insufficient experience of statesmanship encouraged bureaucrats to get their plans translated into action through Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
Today, well flanked by cunning bureaucrats, Asif ali Zardari does feel comfortable, but he has just no realization that his party’s popular status is eroding at a fast pace.
By nature, Zardari is very stubborn person. He is seldom open to a good advise, and a handful of men who hold mastery in the game of flattery are a big block for Mr. Zardari’s popularity graph.