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Zardari’s zen politics

Published Nov 08, 2011 05:13pm


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The objective of this article is not to criticise the government, for that has been done ad nauseum by all and sundry. Neither do I intend to foment the movement to oust the government, for removing a sitting government is the exclusive prerogative of the parliament and the executive. The objective here is to recognise and appreciate the introduction of a new tradition in Pakistan’s political discourse: the tradition of taking the high road, introduced by none other than el Presidente Asif Ali Zardari.

Never before has a political figure had such scorn heaped on him, never before has the occupant of the office of the President been the theme of so many jokes and never before has a President been subjected to such verbal assaults. In the face of such criticism, whether it is true or not, the norm is to throw down the gauntlet and unleash the dogs of war. But President Zardari has taken the high road. He has uttered no words unbecoming of the office of the President of Pakistan and has doubtless resisted the temptation to gag the media. In the face of unprecedented criticism, he has shown unprecedented fortitude. For that alone, he deserves credit.

A sitting chief minister has refused to acknowledge him as his president and threatens to ulta latka him if he does not bring back allegedly looted money. He has been called Mr 10 per cent and he has been called a bigger dictator than Musharraf. He has also been called countless other names I would rather not repeat here. What ever the objective of these verbal volleys, it has not been achieved. By refusing to get drawn into a shouting contest, Zardari has made his opponents look petty and hurt their credibility. Shahbaz Sharif’s October 28 speech will probably go down in history as the epitome of pettiness and manufactured hysteria. Everything including the kitchen sink is being thrown at Zardari, but nothing is sticking.

Perhaps the only criticism that holds any weight is that he has dragged his feet in the implementation of various Supreme Court judgments. His detractors have gone as far as to say that he is defying the Supreme Court, but that seems a stretch as Zardari has not once stated that he does not accept the judgments. Instead he has taken legal recourse in all cases and government lawyers have been showing up for all hearings.

The fact that these cases are playing out themselves so slowly is perhaps exposing the flaws in our judicial system, but to put the fault for that at Zardari’s feet would be unfair. He did not put the clause for presidential immunity in the constitution and neither is he responsible if their is no statute of limitations on case durations which guarantees swift dispensation of justice.

There is no doubt that he is very unpopular and a lot of people would like to see him out of the presidency. I hate it to break it to these people, but the constitution does not accept that as valid grounds for dismissal of the government. If the government is to be brought down, there are many constitutional options available. Unfortunately none of them involve street protests, unsubstantiated allegations or gutter language.

It is said that leaders obsess about the legacy they leave. If that is true for Zardari, he can rest assured that there will be some positives in that legacy as well. While it is true that he may live in infamy for presiding over some tough times, he will forever be the pioneer of the politics of Zen in Pakistan. If future legislative bodies can cover the holes exposed by the executive-judiciary tussle of his era (for example the Presidential Immunity), the credit for that will partially have to go to Zardari as well for bringing those flaws to light. And if he can preside over a transparent, free and fair election in 2013, perhaps history will forgive all his faults.


Irfan Waheed is an engineer working in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at or on twitter.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Irfan Waheed is an engineer working in Austin, Texas.

He can be reached at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (50) Closed

Mohammad naeem Nov 08, 2011 03:01pm
Thanks for writing this nice piece. Time has proved that easy to say whatsoever but difficult to perform. This govt has many things to its credit like 18th amendment and etc. And for zardaris fortitude the closing line of the article say it all "he will be forgiven if he organise transparent 2013 elections" lets keep our fingers crossed!
S. Khan Nov 08, 2011 03:54pm
I do not agree with the assessment of the writer. Zardari is too clever for the opposition. He very well knows he is responsible for what he is being accused of and does not want to react to avoid further mud sligging. He wants to quietly continue with his corrupt ways as long as the situation allows him to do so. To save Pakistan, we need to get rid him and his corrupt government before it is too late.
MJKhan Nov 08, 2011 04:18pm
When you are prepared to sacrifice every principle to hold on to the power, you still will find some admirers like blogger.
Muhammad Umer Nov 08, 2011 04:40pm
Righty said Mr. MJ Khan. very rightly said.
Muhammad Farooq Nov 08, 2011 04:45pm
Mr. Zardari and Zen politics? Lol. I would say he plays the politics of Chanakya. On this political game of chase he has outsmarted his rivals (and allies) to survive successully. He knows when to redpond and when to fall silent. If I write the history of Pakistan I will give him #1 place in political acuemen (while I m using the word politics here in the ordinary sense of the word). We can't fathom his depth.
Muhammad Umer Nov 08, 2011 05:05pm
It is quite surprising that the writer has given a clean chit to zardari, who, accept it or not, is the mastermind of this government behind the curtain. How could he not be held responsible for the all the wrongdoings of this government when every major decision is taken by him being the head of the ruling party (despite the fact that our constitution does not allow it!! but then who cares about constitution and law...). The writer may overlook the bitter fact, but we can not, who live in Pakistan that; that he was the person who had said "commitments are not Quran or Hadith". Can you trust a man even in your normal life who does not even care or bother about his commitments!! set aside a person who claims to be a leader of a nation!!! It is quite not understandable that writer has blamed judicial system of this Country, when the judiciary has passed order after order regarding most critical issues of national interest and it is ruling party of this country (of which zardari is the head) who is shamelessly defying to act upon these orders and instead move in total opposite way and still the writer blames the judiciary for it "slow pace"!!! It is a fact that this government it self, has become the root cause of all the problems of Pakistan and instead of providing relief, it is intriguingly making life of common people more and more miserable and sooner we get rid of this whole government including zardari, it would be better for this Country.. otherwise it will be too late.
Marine Nov 08, 2011 05:11pm
Nice piece of work. There are unlimited words for zardari for what he did for us Pakistanis. You could have add it Irfan Waheed.
ali Nov 08, 2011 05:11pm
Then please do so by voting in the next general election... please do not disturb everyday life and business with useless demos etc. There is a reason we have a voting system!
Aijaz mughal Nov 08, 2011 05:17pm
The article is well balanced and unbiased one. yes doubtlessly, he has gathered too much political garbage from his opponents for his utter failure to particularly on economic front where masses expect economic comfort but faulty govt. policies never offer the promising relief what people want from day one. in contrast, on political front he achieved many extra miles that his detractors could only even ponder about to emulate and simulate them to perpetuate their command unchallengely. His sole moto hilite the objective "to do your job with preservence, let free others to belittle themselves". Calling him dictator is unfair because he relinquished his powers to parliament. calling him corrupt gain little weight until accusation are proven, his alleged corruption is camouflage within crust of unproven charges.having mastery of negotiation skill, he triumphantly off and on persuade allies further cement the ruling coallition. shahid BB had rightly decided in exile she and zardari can not politically co-exist so if she had survived he would never have been allowed to become the part of political discource. as far as coming election concerned no body knows what political gimmickry he prevail to out smart his political opponents because he is unpredictable!
Naval Vaswani Nov 08, 2011 05:30pm
Politics and management are Art of possibilities...You struggle for your possibilities and he is doing for his ....Many things including disliking are part of frustration and above all not being able to do any thing....All this hate is based on Wish list.....
Zahid Nov 08, 2011 06:49pm
politics maturing and i hope it stay like that
Farman Rasool Nov 08, 2011 08:06pm
Mr. Zardari has shown remarkable performance to change the political legacy of Pakistan and deserve to be recognized as true successor of Shaheed Mmohtarma Benazir Bhutto's reconciliation policy which is the future of Pakistan.
wahab Nov 08, 2011 08:41pm
i wonder why would he be conducting the next elections 'fair'?? Funny last sentence!!
Adnan Nov 08, 2011 09:23pm
Well Written blog. I agree with the author. We should appreciate the patience that President has shown throughout this hate campaign against him.
no no... Nov 08, 2011 09:45pm
... he deserves credit for much much for than just that, oh he deserves credit for EVERYTHING. why, that should be so obvious why do we even need to talk about it?
Tahir Naseer Nov 09, 2011 01:44am
Great ! This article has made me think once again with new possibilities.
SJA Nov 09, 2011 02:04am
Give credit where credit is due. There is nothing in creditworthiness. Democracy enriches everyone whoever cashes on it.
Urooj Khan Nov 09, 2011 03:01am
We need to get rid of him and his corrupt government ASAP before it is too late. save Pakistan!
Jabar Nov 09, 2011 04:51am
Due to 16 hours a day of loadshedding . No one can read the newspapers anymore. Two birds with one stone? He tried to gag the media ..latest through PEMRA.. if you have been following the news? Even if he wants to gag the media he can not do so. Why we have to be so naive to even credit someone for this? We have been enslaved for so long that we have lost this ability to cherish our rights and make them impregnable for any little fortune hunter or conqueror that shows up at our doorsteps.
nawaz sharid Nov 09, 2011 05:39am
Frustration :)
WK Khan Nov 09, 2011 05:43am
Very well said Ali - S.Khan and MJ Khan seem to ignore democracy. Democracy is confused with Theocracy - SRK - Self Righteous Khan :)
Rafi Nov 09, 2011 06:21am
Zardari has alienated all except his vote bank; the jiyalas, minorities and rural Sind. Don't be surprised if togather with MQM and PML(Q) he is voted back to power yet again because collective they make up a solid 40% of the voting public.
Zafar Siddiqui Nov 09, 2011 06:50am
Irfan Waheed himself, through this article, is setting an example of a higher standard of journalism in this jungle of extremely biased-viewship/readership driven, anchors and columnists with a 'holier-than-though' attitude. Its guys like Mr. Waheed that have the courage to raise a voice, away from the 'chorus'. Please keep the hope for sanity alive. All I can is, Bravo! And thanks a million. Credit should be given where it is due.
raju Nov 09, 2011 07:57am
So rightly said Ali...
G.Nabi Nov 09, 2011 08:52am
At any moment , 90% population does not know if he is in the country or on one of his meaningless trips overseas.He is an accidental president, his wife's assassination catapulted him to the highest office in the country.
Nasah Nov 09, 2011 09:08am
Whatever his failings past or present -- one cannot deny that Asif Zardari is a great coalition builder -- and a very flexible coalition preserver.
faria khan Nov 09, 2011 09:18am
wow, My dad told me that we BUY ink, and i think IT does stay in the history for all of us, To JUDGE we Can. Not impressed, pathatic to the least
shahid Nov 09, 2011 09:27am
Agree, except the last sentence. Let the people do it in Elections.
Syed Irfan Ali Nov 09, 2011 09:35am
I agree with this blog of Irfan Waheed 100 percent. This is the voice of my heart also.
Izhar Minhas Nov 09, 2011 10:55am
No matter what the bloger is saying Zardari is the most hated person in pakistan if not the entire world. Its a matter of time when he will pay a huge price for all his miss deeds. There is always a new dawn after ever dark night. Let me assure you that dawn is not too far away.
rana Nov 09, 2011 10:57am
I wonder if I should praise this or curse him for this? If this was any other country, the head of state would have long left the post having that kind of credibility. This happens only in Pakistan that such corrupt people are given the high office and make them immune to any accountability. He just have thick skin, he can defend and argue, so he keeps quite. He does not want to leave because he is making as much money as he can gather. How come he become one of the richest man in the world from one of the poorest country in the world. I am sure he does not have credentials of a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Praising of this kind makes me nauseous, just prove we are the nation with no morals and principles (Forget what Jinnah said).
MUNIB Nov 09, 2011 11:22am
" . . but the constitution does not accept that as valid grounds " That is if the president believes in CONSTITUTION which does not accept 10 other things which the president is doing. The truth is , the president is like we read in children stories the "chalaak lomri" who is fooling everyone around with his tricks and sticks (be MQM, PMLQ or Judiciary).
Sajid Rabbani Nov 09, 2011 12:16pm
Well written....
Salman Nov 09, 2011 12:29pm
Positive legecies for Zardari .... what has this worlld come to and what was ther writer even thinking? This is the MOST corrupt and inept goverment in the history of Pakistan. Just look at the prices before this government came to power and now and you will see a 250% increase. That ALONE should be enough to throw him out.
murutza Nov 09, 2011 01:33pm
I agree with writer view 100 percent. peoples party goverment and politics is in foavour of pakistan.
Asif Nov 09, 2011 02:49pm
I am shocked, I am suprised.... still few people are there who are supporting Zardari. Oh my God. May Allah protect us from corrupt leaders and from supporters of corrupt leaders. Ameen. May we see soon a true and an honest leader for Pakistan. Because of evil thinking & corrupt leaders we are paying the high price.
Umar Nov 09, 2011 02:56pm
The writer has made very nice comments.but these comments work in countries where really democracy works,where genuine leaders lead their people,where people power and opinion is respected,where moral values dominates in politics,where rule of law is respected,where open cheating is prohibited in politics,where leaders and politicians are mindful of their people's aspirations. Its very easy to write an article in USA where democratic norms are respected,but a country where more than half of its chlidren are underweight,7 million children are out of school, where government depts have been paralyzed,where courts orders are desecrated,where non-technical people are assigned positions for which they are totally incapable,its very hard here in this country to write for this president.Majority of the people are of the opinion that current government is the most corrupt in the history of the country and new elections should be held now.But government high-ups are disrespecting the public opinion and this what folks dislike.perhaps some people will have a dissidence with me and majority mirrors the folk's aspirations.
Bakhtawer Bilal Nov 09, 2011 05:12pm
If you read the article with a mind set of "I hate Zardari" then probably it is the wastage of your time to read the article. If you believe in logic, then it is very hard to deny the arguments given by the writer. Apart from other sins, one of his sin is that he is very "chalak."
Mr Y J Khan (UK) Nov 09, 2011 05:23pm
We can not deny the fact that where Mr Zardari is famous for corruption and what so ever but he is also known as a man of strong nerves.Through out his life he passed through many tough stages but he turned out of them as a consistant person. Yes offcourse,he made some mistakes in the past but in his this era he gave birth to the "Politics of Tolerence" in the history of Pakistan.We must give him a credit to start a good and new trend in our country which in my opinion will turn into a true democracy very soon.
waqar Nov 09, 2011 05:34pm
Zardari is a great man and the saviour of Pakistan
Shah Nov 09, 2011 05:49pm
I guess thats the only way to make sense of it
Khan Nov 09, 2011 06:12pm
True that. But i think thanks to the media we are getting their slowly and surely.
zahid Nov 10, 2011 02:31am
Going by this logic... Our cricketers will spend time in jail and will be received like heroes upon returning to motherland ? Become head of the Cricket board and represent Pakistani squad at the next Olympics ?
Jabar Nov 10, 2011 04:04am
Sitting in Austin,Texas of course it all looks like Zen work. You have to be ruled by Zardari here in the heartland to find out what this nation is going through?
Syed Nov 10, 2011 06:26am
I agree with the article. Zardari is a smart politician and 100 times better than Sharif Brothers. Shehbaz Sharif is a big drama. He is no doubt hypocrate and thinks that public is foolish. It 21 centurry,media is providing great great awareness.Now people know who is mking them fool. Please no more drama.Give a chance to Imran. Honesly, the time of Zardari and Sharif brothers is over.
Kiran Nov 10, 2011 12:37pm
very well said...
Rubab A. Zaidi Nov 10, 2011 03:53pm
Can't agree with him more on this. Brilliantly written!! Men make history and not the other way around. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders like Zardari seize the opportunity to change things for the better. :)
Tahir A Nov 12, 2011 08:09am
That smirk on his face. Oh you are awful, but I like you!
G.Nabi Nov 13, 2011 01:51pm
Oh, that smirk on his face says it all - ' I did it my way'. You have problem with that ?
Muneer Nov 15, 2011 03:35pm
a nice article......The carping critics of the president are forgetting that despite their exaggerated criticism,the president's fame as the leader is growing each day passing instead of diminishing.This is the very thing which is indigestible for the undemocratic elements.