Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, the popular leader of Pakistan who was murdered by terrorists, is emerging another dictator, deomcratic dictator. He has been insisting that he was the only person who can choose the prime minister for Pakistan. The members of National Assembly, who defeated terrorists in the general election, have no right to express their views. Is this fair in democracy?
According to Daily Times, on the eve of the announcement of the name of the PPP’s candidate for the post of prime minister of Pakistan, one has come to the culminating point of the relationship that developed between President Pervez Musharraf and the PPP chairperson Ms Benazir Bhutto. As the custodian of the policy pursued by her, Mr Asif Ali Zardari has steadily followed the dictates of his wife’s political vision and has aligned his party with the PMLN to acquire a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and be poised to balance the power wielded by President Musharraf after the Senate elections are held next year.
The late chairperson of the PPP had followed a two-pronged approach to the equation of power in Pakistan. To increase the political pressure on Islamabad under President Musharraf, she had moved close to the PMLN under the banner of ARD and signed the Charter for Democracy in 2006. The country thus noted a remarkable new chemistry between the two rival political parties. Ms Bhutto and Mr Nawaz Sharif demonstrated a new capacity for forgetting and forgiving their old revenge-based policies at the risk of alienating their vote banks.
Ms Bhutto also had kept her party’s door open to President Musharraf. There was already evidence during legislations inside the 2002 National Assembly that the PPP could break ranks with the opposition to vote positively on liberal causes like an amendment to the Hadood laws, even when the ruling conservative PMLQ was not willing to pass such legislations. Her approach to the war on terror too was more in line with the thinking of the president and the international coalition, and she was clear-headed on such internally confused events as Lal Masjid. It now develops that President Musharraf was unfortunately too preoccupied in perpetuating himself in power than reaching out to a party that could support his liberal agenda. (He revealed that in his interview to Jemima Khan.)
Therefore, before Ms Bhutto died, she expressed doubts about the president’s sincerity in pursuing an understanding with her. She became aware that he was not prepared to keep “his side of the deal”, if the deal there was based on any clear undertakings. After her demise, Mr Zardari inherited the two-pronged policy of Ms Bhutto. The February 18 elections returned a hung parliament which clearly meant that President Musharraf would become the fulcrum of power in case the PPP decided to take the PMLQ on board to achieve a simple majority in the National Assembly. But the events that unfolded after the elections brought Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif together.
The PMLN was “persuaded” by Ms Bhutto not to go with the boycott policy of the APDM and take part in elections. Looking at the results of the polls, one can say that Mr Sharif has not regretted his decision to part ways with the rejectionists. With the prospect of ruling Punjab unhampered by the centre, and the prospect of becoming prime minister for the third time, he has overcome his feelings of revenge towards President Musharraf enough to allow his partymen to take oath in the National Assembly and as cabinet members of the coalition government. Moderate fellow partymen such as Ishaq Dar have convinced him into leaning on the two-thirds majority of the coalition to consolidate the party in the country.
Today, according to an opinion survey, 88 percent of the people in Pakistan support the coalition put together by Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif. This is a public acceptance of the changes that have come about in the personalities of the two leaders. (The former was not accepted even as a political leader in the past.) They have both shown a remarkable ability to ignore a national vote-bank divided on the basis of hatred. Politicians like Sheikh Rashid had predicted that the anti-PPP nature of the Muslim League vote in Punjab will not allow the parties to walk together for long. But it is one of the merits of democracy that it can sway the people away from negative passions if the leaders remain steadfast in their wisdom.
The PPP has chosen a Sindhi candidate for the speakership of the National Assembly. This is a signal saying that the prime minister will not be from Sindh, in line with the convention of not giving the two offices to the same province. Clearly, the senior vice president of the party Mr Amin Fahim will be passed over in favour of someone from Punjab. We hope that Mr Fahim will accept this development as the culmination of the two-pronged policy of the late Ms Bhutto in which he had played the role assigned to him. The PPP is now more than ever a national party — with presence in the governments of all provinces — thanks to the success achieved by it in forming the right coalition at the centre.