Pakistan: The loneliness of President Zardari

March 16, 2009

Now that President Asif Ali Zardari has agreed to reinstate Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and   offered to challenge a court decision against his rival Nawaz Sharif, is he going to come under pressure to give up his powers to dismiss parliament, another popular demand?

For many Pakistanis, that is the next stage in the rapid emasculation of Zardari’s presidency.  Article 58-2B of the constitution, which many blame for much of the country’s political instability, has several times been used to sack elected governments. Zardari had promised to ditch it but has yet to deliver.

“The next thing is to throw (out) 58-2B – it will fix the super power of president then,” was a post on microblogging site Twitter where activists, lawyers and ordinary people, caught up in the drama of the moment, shared information and pictures in real time. 

He has already lost his Information Minister. Sherry Rehman, a long-time confidante of his late wife Benazir Bhutto,  abruptly quit after the government temporarily blocked transmission of  the popular GEO news television channel.

Some other members of his party have been critical of his actions, deepening his isolation behind the presidential building in Islamabad where he increasingly has been cofined in recent weeks because of security concerns.

But as the Washiington Post reports it is the breakdown of his authority on the ground, especially in Punjab, that should worry him even more.

“As the demonstrations escalated in Lahore, police first responded with volleys of tear gas. But by mid-afternoon they suddenly withdrew from the streets, while numerous city and provincial officials were reported to have resigned. The swift collapse of authority signaled the end of Zardari’s bid to seize control of Punjab, the most politically influential region of the country, and raised serious questions about his ability to remain president.”

Some people thought the shift in power was already happening. Al Jazeera in its report noted that it was Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani who made the announcement to the nation  about the the decision to reinstate the chief judge.

Nawaz Sharif was also expected to meet Gilani at some point on Monday, and it is Gilani who is likely to reconcile any outstanding rifts within his party as a result of Zardari’s actions during the last few days, it said. “In short, Gilani is the man to watch.”

Zardari “is in a blind alley, completely isolated,” and may have to hand much of his power to Gilani as the price for remaining in office, said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a politics professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, in this report here.

Is his loneliness complete or is this only one twist in a test of political nerves?

[Reuters photo of a protest in Lahore and  President Asif Ali Zardari]

Comments

It’s time people of Pakistan understand that their political leaders the military are using india bogey to serve their self interest. They keep drumming that India wants to annexe pakistan. For gods sake realise that nobody wants more excess population with failing economy to be added to India. Its people of pakistan and india who want to stay united. Only the hawks on both sides are stoking fires for their narrow self interest. People from pakistan are no different from Indians. It is really sad to see that two nations formed on the same day growing in different ways. who is to blame ?

Posted by Saif Khan | Report as abusive
 

@who is to blame ?
- Posted by Saif Khan

Old saying:
“Yatha praja, tatha raja” – The people will determine the leadership.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

@Saif Khan

The day India recognizes the permanence of Pakistan is still to come. Until then we will keep our guns pointed against India.

Now back to topic:

Mr Zardari is the constitutionally elected President of a democratically elected party. It doesn’t matter how unpopular he gets, he is a symbol of democracy in Pakistan, something the world values very highly.

 

@Saif Khan
The day India recognizes the permanence of Pakistan is still to come. Until then we will keep our guns pointed against India.
- Posted by Aamir Ali

Aamir Ali: Thanks for admitting that you are hurting India. “Set an an unclear/ambiguous goal so that you get the chance to fight” is your formula. For me Pakistan is permanent and so is for India. Now mind your business and work on your democracy before you start making following statements.

@Mr Zardari is the constitutionally elected President of a democratically elected party. It doesn’t matter how unpopular he gets, he is a symbol of democracy in Pakistan, something the world values very highly.
-Zardari or anyone in pakistan’s history so far has never been a symbol of democracy. Stick (army’s) rules you guys. World does not care about Zardari or Musharraf, world will get what it wants. In additin to these, replace Bush with Zardari in ur statement and see how it sounds.

Be reasonable and sincere.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

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