Zardari’s epoch-making years as president


His task now: Revitalising PPP

The completion of a full term by Asif Ali Zardari was no less than a miracle. From day one he was opposed by a powerful section of the media which raked up muck to demonize him. A major political opponent declared him to be mentally unfit. Another promised to drag him along the streets of Lahore. The Supreme Court insisted on the revival of Swiss cases. There were unending rumours that Zardari might leave the country never to return. An unperturbed Zardari however refused to hand over power till the completion of his tenure. Ruling as a minority government the PPP had to make adjustments with political forces with altogether different agendas under a policy of reconciliation. While some called it opportunism, the policy helped Zardari and his government to retain power.

Zardari’s tenure was marked by historic achievements combined with tragic failures. The landmark constitutional reforms would not have been possible without the president willing to part with the powers he had inherited. The 18th amendment restored the 1973 constitution to its original form while it also extended the sphere of provincial autonomy. Other amendments institutionalized the selection of an independent Election Commission and the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau. A consensus NFC Award with a larger share for the provinces in the divisible pool was another groundbreaking measure. It goes to the credit of the PPP government that despite provocations it did not penalize any media house or journalist. There were no political prisoners during its tenure. Similarly, there were no hangings of death row prisoners, with the sole exception of a soldier sentenced by a military court. That was the good part. Zardari’ biggest failure was in the field of governance. Never in the history of the country was an administration so steeped in scams. Throughout his tenure Zardari remained under the shadow of the Swiss cases. Important government leaders and their allies were accused of being involved in scams from the Haj scandal to LNG, NICL, the RPP and Ephedrine cases and the OGRA scandal. Each one of these scams involved billions of rupees allegedly defalcated. Thus the reputation of the PPP and its co Chairman was soiled. The understanding was that with enough courage, you could do without a reputation. The elections brought out the hollowness of the belief.

Asif Ali Zardari intends to take charge of the PPP after leaving presidency. He will have to move around to revive the sagging morale of the party. Three days back Zardari assured Nawaz Sharif of his support for the next five years and vowed to start politics only when the next election is announced. Will he be able to keep the promise? As the PPP wants to contest the crucial Local Government elections in collaboration with the opposition in Punjab, this would be nothing short of a tightrope walk.