Can Mr. Zardari survive the challenge?

December 28, 2009

Saleem Shehzad
Asia Times

The PPPP government has been given a deadline of December to clip the wings of the president and some of his ministers. What will happen if Mr. Zardari doesn’t accept the dedline and continues to fight the establishment, the parliament, the Supreme Court and Civil Society in Pakistan? That is the $1 million question. For now Mr. Gilani and Mr. Zardari seem to have come out swinging.

President Asif Ali Zardari has decided to go for direct public contact in order to restore his damaged image resulting from resurrection of corruption allegations against him after the demise of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

“The President is already in Karachi as part of the first leg of his public contact drive,” Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar confirmed when contacted by TheNation. “His visit to the Mazar-i-Quaid in Karachi was also an expression of his resolve to go for direct public contact.”
According to the spokesman, the President would stay in Karachi for a few more days and would inaugurate developmental projects in interior Sindh. The President would also address a gathering at Naudero in connection with the second death anniversary of his late spouse Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27.
To a question, the spokesman said, it was yet to be decided whether the President would address these gatherings in person or through satellite communication. After returning from Karachi, the President would address a party workers’ meeting in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. It was also not final whether or not the President would go to Kashmir in person or not. “If he decides to visit Kashmir in person, he would be gracing certain inauguration ceremonies there as well,” the spokesman added.
Asked about the President’s prospective visits to other provinces especially, Balochistan and NWFP, the Spokesman said, “I have shared with you what has, so far, been finalised.”
If Saleem Shehzad is correct, the end game is in sight. However even after announcing that he would eliminate the 17th amendment, Mr. Zardai has not done so.

Trouble in Islamabad

Apart from whatever steps the Pakistani army takes to suppress the militants, the pro-American coalition in Islamabad is losing its grip. The situation is developing into a struggle between the civilian government on the one side and the Supreme Court and the military establishment on the other side. The sole beneficiary of this is likely to be al-Qaeda, as the state will lose its focus in the war against that group. The loser will be the United States.

The Supreme Court last week struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) signed in 2007 by then-president Pervez Musharraf following a Washington and London-brokered deal between former premier Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf.

Under the NRO, all corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband, now President Asif Ali Zardari, were dropped, enabling them to return to Pakistan from exile. In addition, about 8,000 politicians, political workers and bureaucrats accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder and terrorism were granted an amnesty. Many of these people now hold senior positions, including cabinet posts, and they face court proceedings. The president cannot be tried while in office.

The names of these people were placed on the Exit Control List on the orders of the court. As a result, Minister Defense Chaudhary Ahmad Mukhtar was stopped from going to China to negotiate a defense deal. Minister of the Interior Rehman Malik, on whose orders the Exit Control List is constituted, is also named on it. The court also ordered the resumption of a court case in Switzerland for the recovery of state money allegedly swindled by Zardari and Benazir Bhutto.

According to sources close to the military establishment, a four-point agenda has been presented to Zardari for him to ride out the storm:
Cancelation of the 17th constitutional amendment, at the latest by December 31, under which the president is empowered to dissolve the National Assembly and appoint the chiefs of the armed forces.
Removal of all corrupt-tainted ministers from the cabinet.

Implementation of good governance, which means no interference in the functions of national institutions so that they can work fairly and freely.

The national government should include representatives of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz group, the main opposition party. Zardari has not responded well to this program, and he is bent on challenging the court’s ruling on the NRO. Will Mr. Zardari’s wings be clipped next week, or will be resurrect himself? We will find out in a week or so.

President Asif Ali Zardari left for Dubai on Friday morning but surprisingly also took Interior Minister Rehman Malik with him, who, until recently, was said to be on the ECL. It is not yet officially known if his name has been removed from the list.

Officially, it was claimed that the purpose of President Zardariís visit to Dubai was to meet his children there. However, sources said Bilawal and Bakhtawar had already reached Pakistan. Bilawal has come from London while Bakhtawar arrived from Dubai. Only Assefa is in Dubai and insiders claim that President Zardari will return on Sunday, along with his younger daughter.

Authorities claimed that it was a scheduled visit of President Zardari but it was purely private in nature and Rehman Malik joined the president at the last minute. After the Supreme Court verdict on the NRO, this is the first foreign visit of the president and Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The names of all those people who had taken advantage of the NRO were included in the Exit Control List (ECL) on the instruction of the superior judiciary.

The authorities stopped Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar after the Supreme Court verdict and President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani took a serious notice of this step and suspended the interior secretary and some other officials.

Zardari is protected by virtue of his official position and his name was not included in the ECL. Officials confirmed that President Zardari would return on Sunday directly to Larkana, where he will address a public meeting on the second death anniversary of late Benazir Bhutto. There will be no big gathering in Larkana this year because of Muharram and the party has decided that the death anniversary will be observed in every district.Pakistan Observer



  1. The recent desperate speeches by Zardari show he is in panic and is trying to use the Sindh card which wouldn’t work this time. The corrupt must go.

    Barbarians Calling Themselves Soldiers of God:

  2. It may be a harsh truth that the Supreme Court has become partial.After the judgement,there were comments that there were 13 judges from Punjab and Babar Awan talked about a Federal Court in Islamabad(Wheher the constitution allows it or not)of 16 judges 4 from each province.They might include this demand in the 18th amendment,and those opposing this will be clearly exposed.One has to give credit to the govt. for NFC award.
    This court has been clearing Nawaz on every case.Let us see how they will play when Sh.Rashid case comes in Supreme court.

    Zardari or no Zardari,there should not be any attempt to create chaos.By threatening him from all sides,we can descipline him.We must move forward.Afterall Nawaz is not an angel.

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