This piece was originally published in Daily The Post on September 13, 2008
The sight of slogan shouting jiyalas at the gates of Presidency was not only a rare but moving one on ninth day of ninth month – a historic day in the annals of Pakistan’s political saga, when democratic process of electing state’s sovereign head was completed. As Plato puts it, “Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike”. Pakistan People’s Party displayed it with full life. Amid the fears raised by certain sections about his credibility and ability, Asif Ali Zardari finally took oath as the democratically elected President. While watching the ceremony on TV, one could hardly resist tears rolling down the cheeks, as the event reminded of the biggest loss people endured during their struggle for democracy in Pakistan.
Whether it was the exchange of harsh words between security personnel and supporters of the president, or embarrassment of forces’ chiefs who could not get way to leave the presidency after the ceremony due to the presence of enchanting jiyalas; whether it was dripping down of painful tears from Sanam Bhutto’s eyes or loving glitter of pride on Hakim Ali Zardari’s face; whether it was forlorn thought of the gone dictator who was nowhere to be seen or the Zinda hey BiBi Zinda he slogans gushed out naturally of the people present there, everything was but manifestation of nation’s emotional state experiencing peaceful and amicable transformation of hurly-burly arbitrary rule into serenity of democracy.
All the romance of PPP’s success and its pro-people slogans aside, one needs to objectively watch the actions of a party in-charge of country’s affairs completely, from now on. The real responsibility starts from this day. After a very successful and ably handled press conference, morale is high and spirits are up to the sky. It’s high time to capitalize on this breadth of acceptability and deliver in real terms of the word. Notwithstanding the fact that newly elected president, it is understandable, is confronting umpteenth challenges as the leader of ruling party. But the huge responsibility is not carried by Zardari alone, we all must share it. The nation must understand the fact that if past nine years have made Pakistan’s citizenry an alert one, they have taught many things to political adversaries as well. The parties, traditionally right of the center (or center for that matter), especially the ones who were born out of the wedlock of civil and military bureaucracy with clergy, now have creative ways to confront a popularly rooted political party.
We have seen how ambivalent the stances of conventional opponents of PPP have been during past six months. All popular slogans were picked up to embarrass PPP among people while indulging into inflexible single faceted politics – a quick recipe for disaster in as complex a state as Pakistan, facing multiple internal and external threats. Mr. Zardari’s politics since last half a year has been of that of reconciliation and inclusion, an evidence of party’s maturity over the years and an outcome of its sufferings at the hands of powers that be. And now, when the power at home has been successfully consolidated, these “wiser adversaries” need to be tackled in equally befitting manner. The politics of signing the documents you don’t believe you’d be able to abide by has been a tactic for a particular situation, which should be avoided in future at all costs.
It was no later than 4th century BC that Demosthenes, a prominent Greek orator and statesman of ancient Athens was able to realize that there is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? Distrust. The rulers should now candidly recognize the amount of trust deficit that exists between elements of PPP and the masses, owing to some undesirable happenings during past regimes ruled by the party. Serious efforts need to be put in to ensure issues of governance in every field and every aspect of policy implementation. That does not need resources; it just needs commitment and sincerity, which the party is not lacking right now. Whatever drastic steps government has to take, no qualms should be felt while pruning off of bureaucrat friends.
During the maiden press conference of the president, he sounded genuinely cognizant of the supremacy of the parliament. This, however, should go beyond rhetoric. Instead of putting the onus on parliament, the co-chairperson of the ruling party should actually initiate the move to remove notorious 58-2(b) and chopping off of presidential powers transferring them at length to the Prime Minister. Sooner the better. In order to avoid unnecessary political instability at the hands of opponents, and to concentrate on real problems of people, these basic hitches are required to be removed as quickly as possible.
Another monster Zardari is facing is economic challenge. Creative solutions inclined towards people oriented public policies are urgently needed. Broad based technical expert groups should be immediately established to assist the executive branch as well as legislative branch (especially parliamentary committees). While direct transfer of money, however little it is, to the poorest of the poor through Benazir Cards is highly commendable, the removal of subsidies with no plans of their provision in near future is a question mark on party’s prop-people credentials.
A long-awaited change in country’s polity is coupled with immense challenges of economic crisis, constitutional and judicial issues viz a viz credible democracy, coalition management and dealing with war on terror with popular support. We offer you Pakistan to manage and rule Adda Sayeen, Bhali Karay Aaya!