In an op-ed piece to the Globe and Mail, Tarek Fatah has identified Mr. Asif Ali Zardari as the last hope for democracy in Pakistan. Here is my response to the editor.
Tarek Fatah’s ringing endorsement of Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari is quite misplaced. Mr. Zardari is certainly no champion of democracy. His actions as the President of Pakistan have in fact undermined democracy and institutions in Pakistan.
In the past 48 hours of arriving in Pakistan, I have spoken with numerous former journalist colleagues and friends who unanimously disagree with Mr. Fateh’s claims that Mr. Zardari is “the only politician in Pakistan who has the guts to identify the cancer of jihadi extremism and order the Pakistani army to root it out.” The following facts should be considered.
Mr. Zardari hijacked the Pakistan People’s Party after his wife’s (Benazir Bhutto) death. He assumed the leadership of the party by resisting any attempts to hold elections for the position. Since assuming the leadership, Mr. Zardari has sidelined veteran party members who co-founded the Party with Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Mr. Zardari came into power after striking a compromise with the former military dictator General Musharraf who promulgated an ordinance to absolve him and other politicians of charges related with graft and other felonies. The Supreme Court in Pakistan is at present reviewing the constitutionality of the amnesty Mr. Zardari received from the military. Given the quid pro quo he reached with the military, Mr. Zardari is the last person to contain Pakistan’s armed forces, which have been in contempt of Pakistan’s constitution more than once.
Mr. Zardari blocked the restoration of independent judiciary and only gave in when the entire nation joined in a long march to restore the Supreme Court judges that were unconstitutionally removed from office by the military dictator, General Musharraf.
Furthermore, Mr. Zardari tried to dislodge the provincial government in Punjab, the most populace province of Pakistan, and impose Governor rule to take control of the provincial government away from his political opponents. Mr. Zardari backed down only when his own party members refused to join in a coup against a populist government in Punjab.
Lastly, the democracy in Pakistan is guarded by the people of Pakistan who are represented by the Parliament, which is headed by the Prime Minister and not the President. It is the time to come to the rescue of Pakistan’s Parliament and not a political widower who made a deal with the devil to occupy the Presidential palace in Islamabad.