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In Defence of Asif Ali Zardari – by Abdullah Zaidi

What comes to your mind with the mention of Asif Ali Zardari? “A cunning, vile, and corrupt man,” said my 19 year old cousin. This was a good summation of what the urban middle-class thinks of him. The more I hear people talking about him the more I am convinced of the power of propaganda. “Give the dog a bad name and hang him,” Zardai once said about himself. That is what is at work here.

Despite what has been said about him, Zardari did have a political background. His father Hakim Ali Zardari entered politics well before Partition and was a member of the Khaksaar Tehreek in 1931. He was first elected to the National Assembly in 1970s. All this talk of Zardari as a political orphan who hogged the Bhutto dynasty upon marriage with Benazir, is a non-starter. In Benazir’s husband, the Bhutto family wanted someone who would remain loyal to her. That is exactly what they got in him. For Zardari, family would always come first. This was the case at the time of Benazir’s death, when he kept the family together. Benazir would often tell close aides that despite his failings, Zardari always remained loyal to the family.

During the ’80s and ’90s Zardari moved from the Prime Minister’s house to prison and back to the Prime Minister house again. All in all, Zardari’s time in prison comes to a total of 11 years. It is ironical that if convicted, all of the cases he is implicated in have a combined sentence of only 10 years. This easily makes him the biggest political prisoner of the country. In 1999, he was almost tortured to death, with the government alleging that he attempted suicide by cutting off his tongue. He developed spondylitis because of rickety police van rides from Karachi to Lahore for court hearings. He could either sit on a wooden bench or stand straight. He started walking with a cane and had to undergo physiotherapy. It is well within imagination that during this time, Zardari could have brokered a deal with the establishment, broken with Benazir and went into exile. Instead, what happened was that Benazir was murdered and Zardari took over a country divided on ethnic lines, on the brink of an economic meltdown, with a full-fledged insurgency in Balochistan and an ever growing militant threat.

Today, the greatest criticism of the Zardari regime is its massive involvement in corruption. While it is impossible to defend the regime’s corruption and nothing can excuse it, one is forced to think that the whole idea of corruption is inverted in this country. The narrative of corruption has two problems. The first is its singular focus on elected politicians. One hears a lot about politicians being corrupt but almost nothing about the enormous amount of corporate corruption. Corporate corruption is the most heinous form of corruption today. However, in Pakistan it would seem that every corporation is working well within its boundaries and is completely cognisant of its responsibilities. A major part of this corruption is related to the Pakistani military which has the greatest economic stake in this country. Are all these military-run business giants working cleanly? Is the military’s $17 billion business empire clean? Is the acquisition of 12 million acres of public land by the military clean?

Although it is the Government’s responsibility to weed out this menace, it would be wishful thinking to demand that a weak civilian government stand up to an overpowering army. Nevertheless, it is the parliament, and not the judiciary, which probed corruption in National Logistic Cell (NLC), a military-run organization, and indicted two Lt. Generals and one Major General. The Supreme Court today is in essence the anti-corruption regime of this country however almost all of the cases it has taken up involve civilian politicians. It does not receive much attention that the judiciary’s own performance with regard to disposal of cases and prosecution of terrorists has been questionable.

The second problem with the corruption narrative is the middle class’ concept of corruption. For the urban middle class a non-corrupt state would mean a laissez fair system which would leave the rural population at the mercy of the corporates. The Pakistani term for such a system is ‘meritocracy’ or ‘technocracy’. This is also why the urban middle class, which dominates the media, bureaucracy and military, fails to understand why the same ‘corrupt’ politicians come back to power through elections. Rural voters vote for people who they think can best connect them to the ‘English speaking state’. They are concerned with immediate issues such as tube-wells, canal lining, roads, employment, sanitation, water. They live largely aloof from the issues that the mainstream media raises. This is also the reason why Jamshed Dasti was re-elected despite a fierce campaign against him by the middle class.

The middle class rhetoric against ‘corruption’ is not unique to Pakistan. In India, a similar movement led by Anna Hazare calls for passing a Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill which would make elected representatives accountable to a committee of ‘good’, ‘clean’ but un-elected citizens. Unlike Pakistan, however, the Indian media has been very critical of this movement. It is also worth mentioning that corruption in Indian politics way surpasses the corruption here. To cite an example, just the 2G spectrum allocation scam cost the Indian exchequer $39 billion.

So while we castigate the current regime’s corruption, which we should, we should also be cognisant of the parallel narratives of corruption. In this country politicians have continually been booked for corruption while everyone else goes scot-free.

Finally, there have been substantially positive things that have been initiated by this regime but they need several articles to discuss. For now we can do with just noting them. The NFC award, the 18th and 19th Amendments, the Devolution plan, and the Benazir Income Support Program are all success stories to say the least. It is for the first time that we have a functioning Parliament (in which the opposition and government coexist), an independent and aggressive judiciary, and a free media, all at the same time in this country. All of these are institution-building measures which shall have a lasting impact on the country’s political dynamics.

Source: Kafila

(The writer works with a think tank in Islamabad. These are his personal views. His email is abdullah.muhammad.zaidi at gmail dot com.)

About the author

Farhad Jarral

23 Comments

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  • the thing which i feel to share with all the people is a quality of a person which is very rare in our society unfortunately and that quality is “Patience” no one has a magic stic to solve the problems of Paksiatan in no time.
    I personally like Mr. President because he has the biggest quality that a politician must have according to my point of view and that quality I already mentioned above is ” Patience” .
    I also want to share my personal experience about the bad propaganda against Mr. President I live in Faisalabad and here mostly people are in favour of Nawaz Sarif thats not a bad thing this is the beauty of democracy that every person has a right to like the politician of his or her own choice but similarly we have to honour the others feelings and emotions but sorry to say here in this city when ever I speak in favour of Mr. President I have to face opposition of my whole class but I remain strict to my point. when this quality ” Patience” comes in our people then we will progress we should accept the mandate of the people who elected this government to rule on us now keep patience and after five years this opportunity came to you people again then you can decide who will be the next but till that time you should sport the team which is running this system.

  • Zaidi nay apni eidi pakki kra li… Mubarak ho… What is it? a plot in new Bahria Town Enclave? or a brand new Pajero?

  • @Author,
    I dont know why U R so gaga for a person because of whom BB’s government was dismissed not once but twice.
    I dont know why U R so gaga for a person who killed his own brother in law for personnel vandetta.
    I dont know why U R so gaga for a person whose has already been convicted in Swiss court for millions of dollar fraud.
    I dont know why U R so gaga for a person who said promises are not Quran.
    I dont know why U R so gaga for a person who defamed Pakistan and whole country became a laughing stock when he flirted openly with Sara Palin.
    I dont know why U R so gaga for a person who is presiding the most corrupt regime of the time. Not only the huge corruption is going on but the corrupts are being protected by giving them ministerial berths.
    I dont know why U R so gaga for a person who is fighting against Supreme court because the SC is fighting against corruption!
    @Abdul Hannan
    You want to wait till there is no Pakistan! We are all criminals because we allowed these corrupt people sit there. We should not wait till Pakistan becomes a failed state. there are certain situations where we should not be patient. Now it is the matter of our beloved motherland. Asif Baba chalees chor are raping our motherland day in and day out. Should we be patient???
    Rajkumar Abdul Qadir Geelani and Rajkumar Moonis Illahi are above law because they are coalition partners!! Institutions and country go to hell but these 2 rajkumars are to be saved by hook or by crook.
    @Author, By defending such a person, you are earning billions of sins in this holy month.

  • @True PakistaniYou are absolutely no authority to endorse who is a sinner and who is not. That authority rests with God himself. Don’t reduce God to human beings. The sooner you realize this the better for you. 🙂

  • The thing is, for a typical Anti-PPP Anti-Democracy supporter, Bhutto was a scoundrel who broke Pakistan. When BB came to power she was the evil who had destroyed the ‘Great PPP of Bhutto’, now that she is no more, Zardari is the cause of all evils and has destroyed the ‘PPP of Great Benazir’. Just look at the pattern. We recognize you hypocrites too easily now.

  • your cat have no attitute but my cat have fulfilage attitute. this is thinking of our people we never think ourself , we only focus on what our father n grand father told due to that we are in blind faith and never want to try to face the realities. i m agree with adullah. you mr true pakistani, by giving country name what u think u r only pakistani if yes, then see mirror ask ur self why kpk, baluchistan, gilgit, sindh aginst these punjabi leaders i told u because these r pak most corrupt, cheater, illegal, without pak thinking, only follow congress policy. i think these r congress pandit with islmic slogan. first think then talk. no doubt zardari has some allegation despite this i like him being true pakistani and welwisher of entire pak.

  • We need a sincere leadership, right now i c no governance. To HELL with PPPP, PML- N, MQM, PML -Q, i want my Prosperous Pakistan, i want to upgrade my ppl living standards, i want my ppl to have basic necessities of life. If this is not happening HANG THEM ALL.

  • Anti- PPP exist at the every time. Those were the people who were against Mr. Z.A.Bhutto… They themselves and their generation were again Benazir Bhutto and now their third Generation is against Mr. Asif Ali Zardari…
    And these are the people who use to put false allegations, whether it was ZAB, BB or Asif Zardari. And they will keep putting false allegations on Mr. President and upcoming leader Bilawal.
    But PPP never get afraid of these Anti – PPP ,Anti – Pak, Anti – democratic people….!!
    Go ahead Mr. Zardari….. you are a Political Director and Leader, we are with you..!!!
    Jiye PPP, Jiye Bhutto, Jiye ZARDARI….!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Your site says let us build Pakistan, but you guys always talk about PPP. Talk about bhuttos and zardaris. Pakistanis need to think above their parties and leaders.

    While reading the article, I really appreciate that Zardari, being a politician, has real political skills. The political moves he is currently playing to protect the government are really awesome. I totally admit it!

    Now using which fairs / means he is managing to play political moves is debatable. He used zulfiqar mirza to show power, MQM in return showed power, and the threat of breaking sindh worked like a charm. I dont have issue at all. But have u ever think the leaders you are defending ever took notice (except political statements) of poor victims? Thats what pissed me off. Every party has good people who are more literate than their leaders, have more far vision than their leaders, but still they defend leader. Y dont you defend your country maaannnnnn!!!

    Propaganda about zardari may be fake but y dont he denied the issues like The matter of printing currency or not fulfilling court’s orders or removal of key persons or God knows well. I think from here you need to understand y people recognize zardari as bad guy.

    Being a common man, I don’t have any interest in 18th amendment or 19th one. You refereed income support programme. Man time will show you how badly your paralyzed economy will get hit coz of biggest subsidy your government is giving in form of BISP. Instead of setting up industries, directly paying aid to ghareeb is not a wise decision. Give them the chance, the means to earn, not to live as a beggar.

    Pakistan was formed by Quaid-e-Azam, and India by Nehru. One wears Suit, other wears dhoti. But they are equally valued by both nations. If zardari was a illiterate guy, but he works for Pakistan and its people, I can assure you he will be loved more then any other. But situation is not like that. Dasti lied in front of court, how people can believe he wont lie to them as well? If he is getting vote, he must show people that he is doing work. Only then he deserves to get elected.

    In short, Give Pakistan Electricity, a terrorism free estate, Water, Health, Basic necessities of life, good governance and you will get the most votes. We are tired of hearing the same agenda since Pakistan is born. Give us the change, the change that can be felt, seen and experienced. Please Zardari supporters, convey this demand to Zardari. Otherwise kindly dont defend him. You are not adding any thing to this country by simply blogging. If you wanna see t

  • If you wanna see the real popularity of Parties, come to people who are not related to any Party, who will rate you on the basis of your performance, not based on your leaders. Then you will get the clear picture. Otherwise, brain drain is still going rocketing. Good people will leave and you will be left with your great leaders and slave voters.

  • I think it is time that we re-evaluate this “corruption” tag that has been placed on President Zardari by the right-wing brigade.
    ————————-

    Corruption references: No evidence found against Zardari

    By Qaiser Sherazi Published: May 21, 2011

    The references are false and concocted, testify witnesses in accountability courts.

    RAWALPINDI:

    The hearing in four corruption references – ARY Gold, SGS, Cotecna and Ursus tractors – by the accountability courts has entered in the final stages.

    These references against President Asif Zardari, ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, her mother Nusrat Bhutto, A R Siddiqui and Yusuf Talpur had been revived after the annulment of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by the Supreme Court.

    A total of 60 witnesses have so far appeared before the accountability courts in the four references. In their recorded statements and during cross-examination by defence attorneys, they called the references false, concocted, and baseless, which were instituted for political vendetta.

    Investigation officers, in light of inquiry reports, held that no evidence of corruption or graft was found in the references, nor any witness gave statement to that effect.

    While awarding contracts, Asif Zardari, Benazir Bhutto, Nusrat Bhutto, Yusuf Talpur, Salman Farooqui, Brigadier Aslam Hayat Qureshi and Javed Talat neither exerted pressure on anyone, nor took bribe or commission.

    During the investigation, Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari, and A R Siddiqui were found entirely innocent.

    The then accountability bureau chief Saifur Rehman had fraudulently got signatures on the challans of these cases.

    Two references – Ursus tractors and Cotecna – consist of facsimile material which, in the eyes of law, is not fit for prosecution. Not one document in the two references is original.

    At yesterday’s hearing, accountability court No 4 judge Chaudhry Abdul Haq expressed annoyance over the fact that despite being summoned four times in the Ursus tractors case the last witness, investigating officer Iqbal Qasimi, did not appear.

    He issued orders for him to appear on June 3 or action will be taken against him.

    In this case, former chairman of Agriculture Research Council Dr Zafar Altaf testified that Ursus tractors were provided to farmers at their doorsteps for Rs0.15 million while the market price was Rs0.3 million. He wondered how this proved corruption.

    He said the agricultural productivity rose two-fold that year as the tractors were used in tilling the lands.

    He held that had this green tractor scheme continued, an agriculture revolution would have happened today and Pakistan would be exporting farm products, including wheat.

    Customs officers told accountability court No 2 in the ARY Gold reference that it was in 1995 that a gold and silver import policy was framed for the first time. Before that, the two precious metals reached the country through smuggling.

    They testified that this policy yielded Rs8.6 million to the state coffers in one year. The contract was awarded on merit.

    In Cotecna reference hearing, chief custom officer Khalil Ahmed told the court that he had held negotiations for this pre-shipment inspection contract with the company. He said Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari and A R Siddiqui were not involved.

    He said the team of custom and CBR officers headed by him had recommended giving the contract to this firm on merit.

    This contract yielded $27 million income to the government in one and a half year. He said the magistrate in Geneva (Switzerland), who was holding inquiry into the case, had summoned him as a witness. He said he gave the same statement in Geneva, following which the Swiss magistrate disposed of the case.

    At accountability court No 3, former principal secretary Ahmed Sadiq, Khalil Ahmed and investigation officer said the Cotecna reference was based on photocopied material. The company had been awarded the pre-shipment contract on merit, and that Asif Zardari had nothing to do with this deal. He neither attended any meeting in this behalf, nor he or Benazir or any other officer received commission or graft.

    Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2011.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/173137/corruption-references-no-evidence-found-against-zardari/

  • I would really like to ask the admin of the CriticalPPP to acknowledge that this article was first published in Kafila.org.

    Thanks,
    Abdullah Zaidi

  • Loved it!!!!!!!!!!!! Brilliantly written. Well researched and very well written article. Wish I could get the writer a mansion in Bahria Town & a brand new black Cygnus 😀

  • oh man be nazir income support program is a big bluff you should ashamed for this reference

  • BISP is the best targeted subsidy programme. Even the Sasti Roti scheme was not targeted for the poor. Well written, thought provoking. good

  • Ohh looks like Zaidi sbbb either received a “fat envelope” … or has one on his “Eidee-Wish-List”

  • For all those who just comment for the sake of involvement or just to critisize- The government were never dismissed due to zardaree- But you gota read what BENAZIR BB wrote in her BOOk RECONCILIATION- in response to a stupid comment- BB said, all my governments were formed due to zardari and dismissed for other reasons- Not cuz of zardari-

    He is the BEST president ever- and I bet on that- Who wants to talk about it?????????

  • http://tribune.com.pk/story/317357/twists-and-turns-closed-swiss-cases-cannot-be-revived-even-if-pakistan-asks-for-it/

    Cases against President Asif Ali Zardari cannot be reopened in Swiss court, even if Pakistani authorities write a letter to the Swiss authorities, concerned quarters said while talking to The Express Tribune.

    The only conviction in the case was set aside in 2003 after it was appealed by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and President Zardari.

    Sources quote the Swiss attorney general who claimed in April 2010 that the cases could not be revived, even if Pakistan asked, due to lack of incriminating evidence and immunity enjoyed by President Zardari under international law.

    Factitious documents

    The Swiss cases were born during Nawaz Sharif’s second term, sources in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said on condition of anonymity.

    The then-chairman Ethesab Bureau, Saifur Rehman, prepared factitious documents and presented them before Pakistani and Swiss courts, sources added.

    Benazir and Zardari challenged the documents before the accountability bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC). On their application, the bench directed then-registrar of LHC, Moazzam Hayat, to visit Switzerland and meet with Daniel Devaud, the then-Examining Magistrate in Geneva to verify the authenticity of the documents.

    When the registrar requested the Swiss magistrate to attest the copies of documents presented to LHC, assuming that the original documents were presented in the Swiss Court, the magistrate refused, saying no original documents were submitted in the Swiss courts either.

    Sources said the then-accountability chairman had hired ‘special services’ of Hasan Waseem Afzal to design the cases, who managed it through the services of a High Court judge, Malik Qayyum.

    On the basis of non-original documents, however, Devaud awarded a sentence of up to six months to Benazir and Zardari in July 2003.

    Benazir subsequently appealed, and the conviction was set aside by a Geneva tribunal on November 4, 2003.

    Cases resurface

    The cases were revived when Benazir started exerting pressure on General Pervez Musharraf for her return. Afzal was made the deputy chairman NAB and after several visits to Switzerland, he managed to activate the cases.

    Musharraf, sources in NAB claim, wanted Benazir and Zardari convicted by Swiss courts, and even sought an early verdict, to gain an upper hand before striking a deal with her for her return.

    On April 1, 2006, the Court of Appeal of Geneva allowed Afzal to represent the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in the criminal proceedings against Benazir and her allies on charges of money laundering.

    Musharaf’s enthusiasm, however, dampened after an intelligence agency officer, and originator of the infamous ‘tape scandal’, Rana Abdul Rahim expressed his willingness to appear before the Swiss court as a witness. Pakistani courts had acquitted Benazir and Zardari due to lack of incriminating evidence, and Pakistani authorities, sensing that the Swiss cases might meet a similar end following the witness’ appearance, backed out from their demand of an early verdict, NAB sources conjectured.

    On April 1, 2008 Pakistan’s then-attorney general wrote a letter to Swiss courts, and dropped out of a $59.6 million money-laundering case against Zardari.

    Sources in NAB say the purpose of the letter was two-fold: Musharraf wanted to show Benazir that he is following through with the deal but by ‘dropping out,’ he wanted to publicly tarnish her image.

    But, in fact, Musharraf knew there was no evidence which could convict the couple, an official said.

    Cases dropped

    On August 26, 2008, Swiss judicial authorities closed the money-laundering case against Zardari and released $60 million frozen in Swiss accounts over the past decade.

    Daniel Zappelli, Geneva’s chief prosecutor, said he had no evidence to bring Zardari to trial.

    He declined to say exactly who owned the accounts holding the $60 million, citing confidentiality. Zardari’s lawyer, Saverio Lembo, had welcomed Zappelli’s decision to shelve the long-running case.

    “It confirms what my client has pleaded since 1997. In the SGS/Cotecna case, no funds belonging to Benazir Bhutto were found,” Zappelli said.

    Cannot be reopened

    The alleged money-laundering case against President Zardari could not be reopened in Swiss courts, Swiss attorney general Daniel Zappelli said in an interview in April 2010.

    Since the president enjoyed immunity under international law, Swiss courts could not entertain any request to reopen the cases against him, even if the Swiss authorities received a proper request from Pakistan with all the required stances through an official channel, Zappelli was quoted as saying.

    Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2012.

  • http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=86395&Cat=2

    Imran Khan gets bullet-proof Prado

    Mumtaz Alvi
    Sunday, January 08, 2012
    22

    ISLAMABAD: A new black bullet-proof Prado worth around Rs16 million has landed in the country for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan.

    Party sources told The News the PTI chief had opted for a new vehicle in view of security reasons and to cope with his hectic schedule after the party continued to embrace “electables” from diverse political shades.

    The vehicle, which was bought on Thursday and yet to be formally registered, has arrived at his sprawling Bani Gala residence with an “applied for” tag.

    This correspondent tried to contact party secretary general Dr Arif Alvi, who was not available. Nor did he respond to the text message.

    Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf finance secretary Azhar Tariq, when approached, expressed his total ignorance to it.

    But he said someone had gifted a Suzuki Carry to the party central secretariat to facilitate some staffers’ movement in connection with the office-related matters.

    “I have no idea about the party chairman having purchased a new vehicle.

    But what I can say categorically is that if it has been bought, it has been bought not from the party’s fund, as there is no such provision in the rules,” he maintained.

    Party sources revealed the new vehicle purchase coincides with an unexpected decision by Imran Khan to set up his office (central secretariat) at his residence here, which is being seen by some old campaigners of the party as a security precaution move.