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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Zardari rule -The worst period of Paksitan's history

"Even as the democratically elected government led by the PPP became the first civilian government to complete its tenure, one finds very little to cheer about its performance in office. This was evident on August 29, 2012 when Syed Munawar Hasan the Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer ridiculed President Zardari's claim of having served the cause of democracy. In a statement the JI Ameer had said that the corruption-smeared Zardari had driven democracy out of the country and that his four-and-a-half-years rule was akin to a period of the worst kind of dictatorship. "Zardari", Syed Munawar Hasan said, "was personally littered with corruption and the long list of his government's failures included US slavery, target killings, load-shedding, price spiral, lawlessness and a debt ridden economy". Many will not find fault with Syed Munawar Hasan's assessment as it became increasingly clear over the years that carte blanche to commit wrongdoings was allowed during President Zardari's period. This country was literally run into the ground and it was a story of continuous misgovernance, sorry neglect and wholesale apathy for the plight of the people, especially those who had voted the PPP into power. The people had hoped for a shift to more transparent and democratic governance with the coming into power of President Zardari in 2008, nine months after his wife Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. But that was not the case and four and a half years later, all these hopes remain unfulfilled, this is why the PPP faced miserable defeat in the general elections in the Center and three Provinces and has formed government only in Sindh. The once mighty political party that ruled over the hearts of the masses having roots all over Pakistan has now been relegated to the status of a regional political party by an angry and unforgiving populace. How unfortunate is that!

While a new chapter was added to the country's parliamentary history on June 10 when President Zardari addressed the joint sitting of the parliament for the record sixth time, most of the issues he highlighted (that the new government will now have to face) stem from the extremely ineffective PPP government that could not resolve them during its 5 year stint. For the benefit of readers I am reproducing my article "NOT A HYPOCRITE!"

Addressing Parliament for the 6th time, President Zardari spoke of everything under the sun but the two major problems that have brought Pakistan economically, politically and morally to its knees, nepotism and corruption. We are certainly not a failed state but Zardari and party put us well on our way to becoming a criminal one. Aesop (620 BC – 520 BC), a Greek slave of possibly Ethiopian origin to whom many fables through the centuries are credited, observed 2500 years ago in 550 BC, "we hang petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office". Persecuted and/or sidelined, precedents were set for public officials to not only wholeheartedly condone but expedite siphoning of public money. Money is not the only motivation for derailing evidence and prosecution thereof, fear of retribution can be. Chicago's Al Capone was guilty many times over for publicly committing murder, witnesses would never testify against him out of fear for their lives, he would laugh at them in court.

Al Capone was eventually incarcerated in a Federal prison for "tax evasion". While money and fear are both used to prevail over the media from airing the truth, the client-patron relationship in a feudal-type society like ours not only finds willing collaborators but even the honourable either become willing accessories or remain silent. If criminals function in the name of justice, justice becomes a crime. Trying to sustain democratic rule through the last 5 years, the Supreme Court (SC) tried, quite unsuccessfully, to use both reason and the Constitution to avoid force of necessity in establishing of the rule of law.

Claiming "immunity" from appearing before NAB in a corruption case, former PM Yusuf Raza Gilani also evaded questioning by Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) in the "ephedrine" case where his son's former associates have turned "approvers". Gilani's successor as PM Raja Pervez Ashraf delayed appearing before NAB pleading "sickness", in contrast the innocent are usually impatient about appearing sooner rather than later to clear their name of wrongdoing. These two gentlemen misused the PM's office to loot the public till to their heart's content, "Raja Rental" tried his best to outdo Gilani in his few months as PM, time and space did not allow him to match the "ecsta-tic" team effort of Gilani's entire family.

Shunting out officials of ill-repute appointed to the public sector entities wholesale, has the SC taken note of the constant pattern of criminality and held anyone responsible for appointing those having the "lowest common discriminator" of honesty and integrity? Who is going to account for the trillions lost? Names are seldom mentioned, the name of the person advising Zardari how to go about destroying a nation without really trying very rarely surfaces. From time to time planted news items eulogizing Salman Faruqi's services appear, Husain Haqqani is the master of the anonymous plant (like the one targetting me on April 21, 2013). Those who know the name of their father put their name to what they write, those who don't write anonymously.

What about the US$ 60 million believed have been laundered through Swiss Banks? Everyone seems focussed on the "letter to the Swiss", has anyone ever bothered to ask Asif Ali Zardari a straight "yes" or "no" whether the money in question has anything to do with him in any manner? Either the money is his or it is not, and if it is not how can he object if the country, of which he is President, claims it? The only public official in the land who doesn't declare his assets, the democratic hypocrisy is that no political opponent of note questions Zardari about this. Give credit to Bangladesh for uncovering the money-laundering of illegal wealth acquired by late Ziaur Rahman and Ms Khaleda Zia's two sons, Tariq and Arafat Zia was very honest, his despicable sons count among the most dishonest. Reportedly wealthy beyond compare, Zardari should take issue with Forbes (like Saudi Prince Talal did for understating his wealth) for not including him in the "Billionaires" list. Does he pay taxes, and if so, how much and in which countries? Our parliament seems to have given him democratic dispensation about payment of taxes and declaring his assets. Is there any quid pro quo here?

To quote my article "The Webmaster" dated December 22, 2011, (somehow it escaped editing), "PPP are great at spinning facts but spinmasters are far different from those who manipulate the web successfully for public perception. A webmaster's duties include devising and operating strategy, overseeing not just the technical aspects of governance but also management of the content thereof. In the political sense a "webmaster" controls the bureaucracy and runs a parallel government from behind the scenes. With absolute charge over all functions and functionaries, he overrides the democratic facade "as and when required", changing rules of business at will. Sharifuddin Pirzada was the "webmaster" for several military dictators in the "legal" sense, Tariq Aziz was useful to Musharraf more in the "political" sense." unquote. Zardari's "consigliere" Salman Faruqi casts a much wider web and manipulation thereof than Pirzada or Tariq Aziz. Operating mostly in shadows from within the Presidency gives Faruqi much more authority by perception. Answerable to no one but his "boss", the "webmaster" has become a law unto himself.

Calling in favours rendered by him during his service in critical bureaucratic appointments and cocooned from attribution, Faruqi has put every institution in the nation at risk. Does anyone believe that trying to put the ISI under the Ministry of Interior was Rahman Malik's brainchild? The ISI escaped this ignominy only when the military hierarchy decided that this was going too far. And whose "cover" did Husain Haqqani use for infamous Memo targetting the Pakistan Army? Salman Faruqi did not let up doing the Caretaker period, does anyone believe Caretaker PM Khoso had the capacity (or for that matter the inclination?) to make wholesale postings and promotions (reversed by the SC) during his short tenure? The convenient camouflage of the 18th Amendment will no longer work, that is why Zardari is suddenly "honey and sugar".

While the buck stops at President Zardari's desk for wrongdoing across the broad spectrum of governance, this ultimate bureaucrat insider meticulously and systematically destroyed the institutions of governance. Suspended in 1973 by Dr Mubashir Hasan, PPP's first finance Minister, for corruption, Faruqi's appointment as Federal Ombudsman was a very deliberate and contemptuous slap by Zardari to the name of truth and integrity. The august office still being occupied by such a dishonest man is a matter of shame for honest society, thankfully the SC has taken note of this abomination.

While one must commend the brazen aplomb with which a man accused of innumerable crimes addressed Parliament for the 6th time as an elected President, being cheered by his opponents in government about sums up the degraded state our society has sunk to morally. In any of Zardari's talks delivered anywhere as President, is there even one mention of "corruption", even in passing? One must give him credit for that. Unlike others who say what they do not mean and mean what they do not say, at least he is not a hypocrite!
By M. Ikram Sehgal Courtesy: Defence Journal

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