The News, August 31, 2008
Dr Farrukh Saleem
Can anyone name a Pakistani soul who has more votes in our presidential electoral college than does Mr Asif Ali Zardari? To be certain, presidential-hopeful Zardari is a product of a process – a process called elections. He is also a product of a system of governance – a system called democracy. We have had generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf as our presidents and none of them were products of a legitimate electoral process (didn't they broke into the presidency led by the Triple-One Brigade?). Ayub, Zia and Pervez all descended as guardian angels but faded away as Lucifers-in-uniform.
Our most recent messiah-in-uniform, General Pervez Musharraf, managed to attract $12.277 billion in overt aid from the US. Then there was a 5-year-long Saudi Oil Facility (under which the Kingdom gave us up to 100,000 barrels of oil every day). Additionally, during Musharraf's 8-year rule Pakistanis working abroad sent in a wholesome $33.277 billion. That's a colossal $45.554 billion, but look at where we stand now: we are begging the US for flour; we are begging the Saudis for oil; we are begging everyone else for dollars. We have no atta, no electricity and no dollars.
Mr Asif Ali Zardari, no messiah he is. He surely has his share of flaws, perhaps more than his share of stains. More recently, he has added another hefty log – breaking another written promise – to the already backbreaking baggage he has been carrying around. But, let him who is without any flaw throw the first stone.
President-to-be Zardari is certainly no angel – remember, angels don't breathe. So far, Co-chairman Zardari has taken us all on a rough, bumpy, treacherous, a rather deceptive ride. Not too long ago, I had asked my readers if they had ever experienced a desert safari in Dubai. When the desert ranger comes to pick you up from your hotel he isn't really the type you would normally trust. You discover he is a rash driver. You soon discover he goes back on his words. Then he, unexpectedly, jumps the red light. Is he a lawbreaker too! As the sun descends into the horizon, you find yourself in the middle of a dune field; crescentic sand dunes, linear and parabolic, moving dunes, reversing dunes and dunes interacting with the wind (that's present-day Pakistan). The ranger, unexpectedly, speeds the 4X4 to the top of a dune and you feel elated (that's the Bhurban Declaration). The ranger then lets the vehicle into a freefall and you feel you are in the middle of Death Valley National Park (Zardari goes back on his written commitment). When would this roller coaster end? Where would this crafty charade take us? Seems like eternity but your ranger finally stops the vehicle. You realise that you are still in one piece and that there's barbecue, henna painting and belly dancing. You stare back at your ranger but this time in a different light.
Mr Zardari has the political right as well as the legal right to occupy the presidency. Does he have the moral right? Again, let him who hasn't sinned throw the first stone…
We can talk about individuals, along with their flaws, and what they have delivered. We can talk about presidents Iskander Mirza, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Fazal Elahi Chaudhry, Zia-ul-Haq, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Farooq Ahmad Leghari, Rafiq Tarar and Pervez Musharraf. On the other hand, we can talk of due electoral processes and how these processes have delivered in countries around the world.
We have had our share of messiahs – uniformed and otherwise – perhaps more than our share. We need no more messiahs. Processes is what we need because processes deliver, individual don't. Systems deliver, individuals don't. Let us, for once, put processes in place, a system of governance in place. Once we have a strong system it shall on its own throw all the bad apples out.
Postscript: A month ago, US Carrier Strike Group (CSG) led by USS Abraham Lincoln was ordered to move from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman. If that wasn't enough, another U.S. Carrier Strike Group led by USS Ronald Reagan has now moved in the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Profile: Asif Ali Zardari - BBC