After many suspenseful months of hibernation former President Asif Ali Zardari is back in the game to the disappointment of his adversaries. The vicious rumours that had been doing the rounds have been quashed. In 2008 no doubt Zardari found himself trapped in the eye of a storm immediately after the cold bloodied assassination of martyred Benazir Bhutto in December 2007 after she returned home on crest of popular wave to free Pakistan and its people from the stranglehold of a dictator, his coterie of Generals and self-seeking opportunist politicians many of whom are now serving selected Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Zardari’s life ever since he got married to Benazir Bhutto has been a long travail of unending challenges. He has ever since remained most persecuted politician ever. After Benazir’s assassination Zardari was pushed into the epicenetre of a severely fractured and traumatised country. He had to pick up the pieces of a bitterly divided society, put together Bhutto’s party battered and wounded, its followers deeply hurt.
In that dark hour of uncertainty he saved Pakistan from imploding with his slogan “Pakistan Khappay” and offering leadership to the crestfallen masses to fill the vacuum caused by Martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s elimination and Benazir Bhutto’s assassination by two successive dictators. Pakistan, indeed, was hairline away from being declared a failed state with terrorists imposing their writ.
Zardari had to waddle across oceans of problems to go through when he assumed power as elected President in 2008. It was his resolve to make federating units powerful and resilient. One of his first acts as the president was to wilfully surrender arbitrary presidential powers vested in the office of the President to the Parliament thus restoring its supremacy by giving up his absolute powers under 58 (2) B to dismiss a government at his will. He is in history first person in the highest office to voluntarily surrender his absolute powers. He sought a government of national consensus as conceived by Benazir Bhutto in her vision as manifested in the Charter of democracy.
Democracy and reconciliation with monumental achievements like creating the first social safety net, The Benazir Income Support Programme that empowered women in low income households. He had his party bring the 18th Amendment into the Constitution to devolve powers and resources to provinces allowing for more provincial autonomy and equitable distribution of resources. It was a major step to transfer concurrent lists to the provinces and ensure equitable allocations of national resources in the backdrop of the economic recession as well as the height of the war on terror. The cold blooded murders of governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and his minister for minorities were threats that could not be understated. Powers that kept him and his government under Damocles sword hanging over his head as no democratic government before it, had ever been able to sustain a full term in power.
It was to his credit that he oversaw peaceful transition of power from one elected government to another following 2013 elections. This process was intrinsic to the evolution of democracy. As soon as he left the scene in the years leading up to the 2018 elections saw Pakistan slipping back to old ways. Cricketer Imran Khan was selected by the Establishment to launch an anti-corruption campaign against politicians making empty promises for repatriation of 200 billion dollars of alleged looted money stashed abroad by opposition. He spilled hatred in public for the leaders manning previous governments and threatened to hang his opponents.
Indeed, the greatest crime committed by Imran Khan backed by his uniformed collaborators was to create a hatred for civilian rule. Though he claimed to have struggled as a politician he had earned national notoriety for his contempt for Parliament as manifested in his lack of attendance in Parliamentary proceedings, deeming it as a wasteful exercise. His propaganda was well backed, funded and sold to the masses through social media. Zardari was singled along with Nawaz Sharif to face the plethora of corruption allegations. Lately a vicious campaign about his health prompting the question after Zardari, what – is being orchestrated at the behest of the vested interests.
Earlier life of Zardari’s had not been a bed of roses. He spent more than 11 years behind bars without a conviction for baseless charges of corruption. Zardari got acquitted one after the other through the courts and legal processes. Though he faced it all bravely, he had to pay a heavy toll with his health as reflected now with impaired heart valves, high blood pressure and uncontrolled diabetes with a severe back problem debilitating his movements.
The most deplorable feature from the time of his marriage is that he has been made a most vitriolic target of vendetta loaded disinformation campaigns that have continued until now beefed up by the Establishment never to let Zardari have peace. They don’t want him to be around as they see in him a man who has grown tough in stature through trials and tribulations to pose an invincible threat to the forces representing status quo. They see in Bilawal Bhutto the rise of a phoenix-a combination of the spirit of Bhuttoism to defeat them at their game of chicanery and deceit.
As such along with Zardari now Bilawal too is being targeted for character assassination. Last but not the least, SZAB left as his irreplaceable legacy as the national democratic goal and a progressive populist agenda for PPP as harbinger of change to be spearheaded by Bilawal Bhutto in times to come.