No fireworks. It was expected, though the hot-blooded agents of volatility had anticipated that President Asif Ali Zardari would make a confrontational speech with a strong message to the military establishment. Seen as a prelude to the president’s address in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s media talk a day earlier had unambiguously removed the suspicions about an imminent conflict between the army and the government. The president exercised restraint, albeit his address was evidently replete with messages for both internal and external audiences.
Unlike his previous politically-loaded addresses on the death anniversaries of Benazir Bhutto, however, this time the president did not train his guns on his critics, political rivals and the military-led establishment – reconciliation with all was the bottom line of his speech. However, he did explicitly refer to the judiciary and registered his protest for – he candidly stated – judicial discrimination against the government and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). But the most important question that remained unanswered was: Where are Benazir Bhutto’s killers?
What surprised many was Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan’s comeback with a big bang after a long hibernation. He had chosen to take a backseat for the simple reason that some toadies had encircled the party’s high command and the ideologically committed vanguards, who had weathered all difficulties, were ignored. Though late, the president finally realised and Ahsan was again seen on the stage but this time with unprecedented respect, which he deserved, to the extent that he was asked to speak even after the last speaker – the president, who is also co-chairman of the PPP.
Understandably, there was a method in this proverbial madness. While there were speculations that Aitzaz Ahsan, disenchanted with the party leadership, might say goodbye to the PPP and possibly join Imran Khan’s bandwagon, the president’s decision to invite him to speak after his address was well-calculated and the message to the disappointed party leaders and workers, who would probably be thinking of quitting the PPP, was: stay around, we respect you and you are our assets.
The president, like the Sharif brothers, appeared disturbed with the rise of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) as a third but formidable political force as he consumed a considerable amount of time to speak about it. He could not skip the latest political developments with top leaders of major political parties, including the PPP, joining the PTI, and without saying that the establishment was behind the cricketer-turned-politician, he said attempts were being made to introduce “tailor-made democracies” and asked: “Is this to derail real democracy, or an attempt to bring in some dictator?”
Though he often praises the prime minister, it was for the first time that he lavishly did so. “I always listened to the prime minister because he represented the federation and was a representative of the people through parliament. He remained steadfast and stood by me … he is the leader of all. You would not find Yousaf Raza Gilani stumble at any stage,” the president said to remove the doubts about the prime minister that he might leave him in the lurch.
While he did not make a direct comment on the memo controversy that had dogged his relations with the army, he took a clear position that he would defend the constitution. “Our way will be that of Aung San Suu Kyi,” the president referred to the Burmese leader, known the world over for her struggle for democracy. His argument was that nothing supra-constitution would be allowed. His reference to the constitution was unmistakably for those he thought were intriguing to remove him.
Frustrated with the United States for not supporting him to resolve Pakistan’s problems like the energy crisis despite its contribution in the war on terror and rather objecting to Islamabad’s efforts to improve trade relations with China and particularly with Iran, the president said: “We have decided not to join any ‘theatre of war’ which has nothing to do with us.” His categorical policy statement was that Pakistan would enter into trade pacts with the countries of its choice. “Your own economies are in trouble. Should I care for the children of my country or look after your interests?” he asked the US, without naming it.
You do it your way, we will do it our way – that much was loud and clear to all inside and outside Pakistan.
A balanced address, but replete with messages
Well balanced address of the President, but he should control the hawks .Remarks may be made , hard hitting objections could be done in a polite way with soft language .
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