Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Maneuverings of Zardari's PPP

Dr. Umar Khan

Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank.



Maneuverings of Zardari’s Peoples Party

PPP under Zardari is acting differently from the PPP we knew of. When Supreme Court in the NRO case demanded the government to revoke Malik Qayyum’s letter and leave it to the Swiss authorities it flatly refused. PPP has insisted that the Swiss cases can’t be reopened due to weakness of evidence and President’s immunity and there might be some substance to this claim. Still the PPP government openly defies the Supreme Court creating a huge commotion in the country. They could have gotten away with one small simple worded letter easily without any complications but chose not to and instead got into in a nerve wrecking standoff with judiciary getting their PM convicted making his future unsure landing the nation in an impasse. This PPP government guided by President Zardari has never tried to take stands and backtracks easily claiming to rule by compromise deliberately getting in an ugly confrontation with the judiciary is strange. This standoff has one major affect; it has practically changed the topic for new elections in the election year from performance of the government of PPP to its victimization. Considering the performance of Gillani/Zardari’s government for last 4 years this seems to be the best strategy available.

Taking on the judiciary by a civilian government in a country with a history of military takeovers appears strange at first. Judiciary is the most important guardian of constitution very important for political government especially in Pakistan. There are numerous somewhat credible reports about the judiciary not giving green light to the potential military adventurists always insisting on constitutional ways. Bangladesh model and other such proposed steps were actively resisted by this judiciary not out of love for the PPP’s government but constitution. Some people consider it the single most important factor in this government finishing its term along with legal community’s threat of actively resisting any extra constitutional step. Still political expediency has put natural allies on confrontational course and Zardari led PPP is confronting the judiciary brutally.

This is not an isolated incidence but a continuation of a trend where attention is being diverted from people’s issues towards unimportant and emotional issues allowing the government to evade the scrutiny of voters. Raising and highlighting the issue of Saraiki province after 4 years in power also is a step in this direction as are other a bit less brash ones like bringing Bilawal on the scene looking somewhat of a regal prince watching over the throne ordering the PM more than twice his age as an overbearing boss. Bakhtawar has also been brought in picture focusing on the social media. How far these unusual antics will work needs to be seen but they certainly point to a very tricky mind.

PPP under Zardari has certainly shown superb understanding of political dynamics of Pakistan unlike the BB days when Nawaz Sharif always kept it on the defensive ridiculing and humiliating it at will. In addition he has been unbelievably superb in making strange allies and then keeping them united. MQM had never been a very faithful ally but is staying put loyally despite a few hiccups. ANP with lots of grudges after the Hyderabad trials by ZAB has been a very staunch ally and best of all the sworn enemies of PPP, the Chaudhries of Gujrat, are more devoted than the rest. Arm twisting or other tactics were certainly used but they are common in our political culture and even acceptable to an extent in the more developed world too. It certainly speaks a lot about the skills of the sponsors.

There were opportunities for President Zardari with the nation wary of military rule in a mood to accept and support politicians of any kind and he cashed in skillfully as far as survival in the seat of power is concerned but failed in delivering a good life to the voters. The opposition parties, media, judiciary and the civil society have become very distrustful of military governments utterly convinced that the worst form of democratic government is better than the best military ones. This fear of the third force made people and institutions to tone down their opposition to the democratically elected government imparting certain impunity. All this is basically aimed at the good of the people and should not have been overstretched or abused and we might be bordering on that.

Why Zardari’s PPP is trying to evade its performance is all too obvious. The country has been terribly misgoverned to the extent of making it look ridiculous. In its 65 years of history we have had terrible periods of misgovernance but none as bad as this one. All state institutions like railways, PIA, steel mill or electricity are on their knees surviving on state support on daily basis. Inflation is rampant, power shortages, despite installed capacity, has worsened the already bad employment situation. Hardly any major development work has been done and there is a sense of hopelessness seeping in our society. Law and order situation has worsened to an extent that allegations of failed state are gaining weight. Stories of corruption by the government and its allies abound and that might be the reason of unquestioning loyalty of the allies. A blank check for faithful support is hard to resist for many. The other advantage of sharing ill-gotten wealth from the national exchequer is that those allies lose their option of leaving as they become prone to blackmailing and arm-twisting due to their dubious doings. 


Unfortunately despite these very clever maneuvers Zardari/Gillani’s PPP government has failed miserably in improving the lot of the people making them nervous at the thought of going back to the voters and distractions are devised. Since the conviction of the PM, talk of load shedding, inflation, unemployment etc, showing governments inefficiencies have been replaced with Saraiki PM vs Punjabi and PPP vs PML etc etc.

To be fair to the government it has pleased some quarters too. It exorbitantly increased the defense budget, increased the salaries of govt employees, gave decades of arrears, generously adjusted the allies and their ministers etc. It got to the extent that they hardly refused anyone including demands of their allies when payment from the national exchequer was concerned. These temporary political favors increased the budget deficit resulting in unmanageable inflation. Needless to say the common man or the taxpayer was the biggest victim of this scheme of things and he was to pay for all this squandering as the rich don’t pay taxes in Pakistan.

The real price of misgovernance and corruption is always paid by the common man. He is suffering because of electricity, fuel prices, unemployment and inflation due to policies of this government. Political maneuverings do work and pay dividends but without concrete results these are of very short term nature. For long term benefits these should be complimented with real progress and benefits to the poor which are nonexistent. Just the thought of conning a poor man, unable to make his ends meet due to incompetence or corruption, into voting for his tormentor appears naïveté.

This PPP under Zardari is not ready to face elections and the electorate on the basis of its performance which can be labeled nothing but disastrous for the poor. It is desperately trying to find distractions and irrelevant emotional issues to carry it through the elections which are only months away dwelling on thoughts of royal family and PPPs committed vote bank. Few isolated bye election victories are also lending weight to their optimism.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, .but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. Pakistani public lacks education, behaves emotionally but is very clear about its interests. In the last elections world powers were with the PPP, as has become clear with Condy Rice’s memoirs, along with military under Musharraf and then the extremely emotional atmosphere created by BBs death that led to PPPs government under Zardari. With the current trends if Zardari fails to distract the people from its performance, it wouldn’t be a surprise if PPP is annihilated at the polling stations in the next elections and Zardari gets the credit for doing something Gen Zia couldn’t ie finishing the PPP. In 1997 elections PPP under BB failed to get a single NA seat from Punjab, ZABs domain, due to her performance and it might get even worse this time. Zardari is sharp enough to appreciate it and would go out of the way in its confrontation with judiciary and other lingual issues; after all he is not short of understanding of political dynamics.

So readers get ready for more dramas; they are beneficial, or rather necessary for some who would be working overtime to distract people from their performance. PPP has come a long way from ZAB’s days.


  1. Whether it is right or wrong, but we don't need to take judiciary seriously. Whatever is the decision of the Supreme Court, may or may not be implemented, but it is not necessary. For me Lucky Irani Circus is more important than Supreme Court of Pakistan; and jokers in circus are more respectable than clowns in black gowns. I may be stupid in saying all this, but this is my reaction for selective justice in the last three or four decades.

  2. You might be adversely affecting Zardari's strategy and people might start talking about his performance.