Thursday, June 18, 2015

Daily Times Editorial June 18, 2015

Zardari's ire Co-chairperson of the PPP Asif Ali Zardari is associated in the public mind with many things, but apoplectic anger is surely not one of them. To everyone's surprise therefore, Mr Zardari came out swinging in an unprecedentedly aggressive speech while addressing an oath taking ceremony of the PPP's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa office bearers in Islamabad on Tuesday against the military and peripherally the PML-N government. He warned the military to stay away from politics and not interfere in matters beyond its domain. He went on to say army chiefs come and go every three years, but the political leadership is here to stay. Asif Zardari did not end his broadside there but went on to threaten that if the (alleged) defamation campaign against him and his party does not stop, they are quite capable of bringing the entire country from north to south to a grinding halt, which will then not be reversed without his say so. Further, he warned the military not to push him to the point where he feels compelled to expose the list of Generals accused of wrongdoing since the creation of Pakistan. In that case he argued, they would be giving explanations for a very long time to come. Turning to former dictator General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, he said he spent five years in prison during his regime (and three more during the previous government of Nawaz Sharif) but the ex-commando could not even withstand three months in jail. He said if the PPP moves, everything will be jolted as he and his party know how to wage war. He added that he did not want to weaken the institution of the military, which was facing a three-front situation with India's threats, internal terrorism and the Baloch insurgency. His party, he said, had always stood by the military in moments of crisis. Having vented his spleen against the military, Zardari turned on the PML-N to remind it of the debt it owed the PPP for standing by the government during the PTI's sit-in in Islamabad last year instead of resigning along with the PTI, which would have brought the government down. He said he was watching the political game and moves and waiting for the right time (to act, presumably). The normally mild-mannered and smiling Mr Zardari certainly seems to have a very angry bee buzzing in his bonnet. To go so far as to threaten the military directly and the PML-N government indirectly with retribution unless the alleged 'campaign' against Zardari and the PPP ceases is both unprecedented and a turn away from the policy of 'reconciliation' enunciated by the late Benazir Bhutto before her return from exile and subsequent assassination in 2007. Zardari reminded everyone of the patience exhibited by him after her assassination when he helped quell the violent agitation and protest against her murder with the slogan: Pakistan khappay (Pakistan will live). But now, he said, he was running out of patience. The question on everyone's mind is what is it that has wrought this transformation in the co-chairperson of the PPP? One line of reasoning ascribes this sudden turn to a series of events following the revelation of a report by the DG Rangers Karachi that some Rs 230 billion was generated through illegal activities such as corruption, land grabbing, smuggling Iranian oil, extortion, etc, from the city and used for supporting terrorism and crime. The report alleged a major political party was involved. Most people assumed the evasive reference was to the MQM, the party most people associate with Karachi's plethora of troubles. However, it now appears the MQM, despite heading the cast of usual suspects, is not the only party in the dock. What may add weight to the finger of suspicion pointing towards the PPP may be the fact of a Rangers raid on the offices of the Sindh Building Control Authority's offices in Karachi, in which records were seized and according to strong rumours, Zardari's associate Manzur Qadir Kaka was arrested. If Mr Kaka was a prop that has been knocked away from under Zardari, this might explain his reaction. But his diatribe spells trouble for the Sindh PPP government, and by extension perhaps, the entire democratic dispensation.

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