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Zardari as President to counter problems

12 September, 2008

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Mr Zardari was thrust into the centre stage of current political developments when his wife, the charismatic former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December.

Since then he has led her Pakistan People`s Party (PPP) through successful general elections and worked with former political enemies to force President Pervez Musharraf to resign. And yet before Ms Bhutto`s death, Mr Zardari`s public image was so bad that the PPP kept him out of the public eye as much as possible during the campaigning for February`s elections.

He spent several years in jail on charges of corruption. He was labelled "Mr 10%".

He found himself in major trouble in 1990 when he was accused of tying a remote-controlled bomb to the leg of a businessman and sending him into a bank to withdraw money from his account as a pay-off. However, he was whisked out of prison to be made a minister after the PPP won elections in 1993. In 1996, he was arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. He found himself charged with the murder of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, his wife`s brother. He was later charged, along with his wife, and convicted in a kickbacks scam involving a Swiss company, SGS. But a mistrial was declared by Pakistan`s Supreme Court following a major scandal involving the accountability bureau and the judge who had issued the verdict.

Pakistan`s judiciary has not had a reputation for acting independently of the government when it comes to high-profile cases, especially of a political nature. His last prison sentence lasted eight years until 2004, during which time he says he was tortured. It ended as the then General Musharraf was engaged in protracted negotiations with Benazir Bhutto, then in self-imposed exile, for some form of political reconciliation.

Mr Zardari resolutely stood by his party as well as his wife - although at times he disagreed with the politics of both.

His friends say this was entirely in character and that no-one can deny his personal courage.

Mr Zardari already has the judiciary in subservience, and the Parliament will also know to him, as Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani`s demeanour indicates Mr Zardari is choice of persons like Salman Farooqi and Rehman Malik who had questionable reputations in their earlier tenures as Financial and Police officials has aroused suspicious about his future intentions. Even persons chosen for the top diplomatic positions like Pakistan`s to Washington and High Commissioner to London are Party loyalists. It may be recalled that as prime minister in her first term, Benazir had personalised the choice of personnel for government jobs by downgrading the role of the Federal Public Service Commission and establishing the Placement Bureau under her direct control. However, the merit system would be undermined through party and personal patronage. Wholesale "cleansing" campaigns may be launched.

As president, Mr Zardari will undoubtedly continue the Bhutto legacy of close relations with China, though he will also seek a good relationship with the US and India. Tackling the threats of extremism and terrorism will be a major challenge and he has already complicated matters by backing self-reliance and negotiations along the Pak-Afghan and opposing a pro-active role by US and NATO forces.

  • According to scenario mentioned above, what do you think about President Zardari`s future as a president?
  • Lawyers movement is once again getting momentum. In your opinion will they give President Zardari a tough time?
  • Will President Zardari make his government able to tackle Pakistan mounting problems like economy, energy and law & order, inflation, unemployment etc.?
  • Do you think President Zardari would face any other issues or challenges from other political parties in addition to concerns raised by PML-N?
  • Do you think, President Zardari is the right replacement of Former President Musharraf?
  •  What do you think about the story ? Leave your comments!

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