By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani chosen as PM by Zardari remained wholly loyal to his benefactor till the very end. He remained calm even when he was downed by Supreme Court (SC) and when he was finally axed. Hardly had the head of PM Gilani been rolled when three aspirants raring to be guillotined by the axe of judiciary started bleating excitedly, each eager than the other. It became difficult for the chief selector whom to select since each one seemed more loyal to Bhutto-Zardari than others. Makhdoom Shahabuddin had almost pushed his way through but was tripped by ANF in Ephedrine case at the 11th hour. It took everyone by complete surprise when a back bencher Raja Pervez Ashraf joined the race and in no time dashed ahead of the leading lights and wore the crown of thorns. He won the race purely on merit, being a heavy weight champion in corruption and inefficiency.
Under normal circumstances, the one making the selection should have literally gone wonky to pick Raja out of the available lot of thieves given his soiled reputation and the miseries he inflicted upon the people of Pakistan as Minister for Water &Power from 2008-2011. He is responsible for worst ever energy crisis because of preferring highly expensive RPPs over hydro and IPP options to fill his and his benefactor’s pockets with commission money. His selection took place at a time when the people have come on the roads and are burning down state property and ministers houses and cursing Raja and Zardari because of 18-20 hour long load shedding in this scorching heat. Under such volatile conditions, no sane person would have chosen Raja who was sacked because of his incompetence and corruption scandals. It amounted to rubbing salt in the wounds of aggrieved masses suffering the prolonged pangs of power outages. It was like showing a red rag to the infuriated bull. But why should his election come as a shocking surprise when in 2008 this nation elected Zardari as the president?
Compromised person like Raja suited Zardari to act as his pawn. Zardari knows that Raja lacks vision, sagacity and will to perform but also knows that he will blindly do as told to do. To top it all, the allied ruling parties tamely approved Zardari’s choice and none raised any objection. How could anyone object since all the members of the gang of robbers were assured that they would be given their due share of power even if it meant doubling the size of cabinet and would be allowed to rob and fleece the masses without any let and hindrance. Never before this country has seen the level of unity and cooperation among coalition partners as demonstrated by PPP-MQM-ANP and now PML-Q.
The glue which keeps them together is their common traits of greediness, selfishness, immorality, deceitfulness and intrigue. For them, there is no distinction between good and bad, right and wrong, evil and virtue as long as their self interests are being met. Rather, the corrupt are preferred over honest people. The irony is that all the four allies have different political philosophies and inwardly hate each other. Their pathological hatred can be seen in Karachi which has been drenched in blood by the three coalition partners, each seeking a bigger political share.
The ruling parties have systematically ruined the country and are still pursuing self-destructive policies. There is no sense of guilt, no feeling of shame, remorse over their misconduct or desire to correct. But for the higher judiciary and fear of armed forces, by now they would have sold the strategic assets of the country to the highest bidder. Notwithstanding higher judiciary’s enviable services to keep the rulers in check, it has proceeded too slowly in getting hold of the over 8000 beneficiaries of NRO. The entire focus remained riveted on Swiss letter case but it took the Supreme Court (SC) two years and four months to convict the chief culprit.
Departure of Gilani has caused no trouble to President Zardari since the new incumbent has already revealed his intentions that he will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. It is quite clear that he too will not write a letter and thus will provoke another executive-judiciary clash. With one more dummy PM, Zardari will continue to call all the shots. The weapons he has been using to keep his opponents at bay are the slogan of democracy, sympathy for his late wife, patronizing and rewarding the crooks and shady persons and letting them share the loot, selective reconciliation, appeasement of USA, Britain and India, delaying tactics, false promises, and when everything failed playing Sindh card. Backed by his patrons in Washington, Zardari is continuing with his palace intrigues and the Jayalas and allied parties are dancing to his tunes. His intrigues and manipulations have shaken the foundations of the state and made it fragile but his fans say he is politically very shrewd.
Instead of learning lessons from the two failed stints of Benazir Bhutto, Zardari is repeating the mistakes as if he is working on a foreign agenda. Instead of correcting the course after the humiliating exit of Gilani and sharp decline in popularity of Zardari and PPP, efforts are in hand how to defang the judiciary. Preparations are afoot to impeach Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) and to create SCs for each province. Riaz Malik has been used to prepare grounds to move a reference against CJP. Loins are being girded for the second bout with the judiciary, with Raja Pervez nourished as the next sacrificial goat.
It is to be seen how the SC proceeds further; whether it adopts the same snail speed or moves decisively with alacrity. The issue of presidential immunity which has been the basis of defying SC orders has yet not been clarified. It is high time that a firm ruling is given that presidential immunity in no way bars the government from writing a letter. The intent is not to get the president punished by a foreign court but to get $60 million back if it is stolen money. One will wait and see whether Judicial Commission can write a letter directly to Swiss authorities to reopen money laundering case pending against Zardari if Raja refuses to do so and goes the Gilani way. SC has given 12 July to the new PM to disclose his intentions in this regard. His fate will be no different than Gilani and may even suffer imprisonment on account of graft cases pending against him. Memogate scandal about which SC bench has completed preliminary probe and held Hussein Haqqani architect of the memo should expeditiously reach its logical end by determining who authorized Haqqani. Likewise, case of holding of two offices by president should also be expedited.
Although Zardari has battled hard to remain in power and to save his ill-gotten wealth, he has used up all his tricks stored in his hat and has finally reached the dead end. Disregarding PPP’s propaganda against the judiciary maligning it as super active, biased and poised to get rid of Sindhi President, the SC should move ahead with top speed since already too much of time has been wasted in reviews, adjournments and legal wrangling. If Zardari is the bane of malaise afflicting the country, he must be shown the door, or as a minimum his powers clipped.