Zardari’s faulty wisdom
PPP co-Chairperson Asif Zardari has joined the fray of the heating up of the coming electoral contest of late, but in an exceedingly strange way. While mutual mudslinging between the rival parties, especially the PPP, PTI and PML-N, the three main contenders, has become the order of the day, Zardari has contributed his own unique ‘touch’. He says the PPP and PTI could forge a Senate-like arrangement after the elections if needed. Attempting to justify his reference to what has come to be almost universally reviled as horse-trading during the polls for the upper house, he trotted out the saying: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” He went on to say that if the PPP cannot form a government (presumably in alliance with the PTI and the saleable commodity called ‘independents’), it was prepared to sit on the opposition benches (a tautology, surely). On the other hand, Zardari has been tilting against the PML-N and in particular Nawaz Sharif in incrementally harsh terms for some time. Recently he asserted that he was unwilling even to enter paradise with Nawaz Sharif. Now he blames Nawaz Sharif for the present parlous state of our democracy, which Nawaz Sharif has brought to this pass through his ‘Prince Saleem-like’ behaviour. This faltering democracy, thanks to Nawaz Sharif he asserts, is so weak that “anything can happen”. Earlier, on April 28, 2018, Zardari had ruled out an alliance with the PML-N, which he argued only came to power in 2013 because he had let them form the government. And he also asserted that no government without the PPP would be sustainable.
Mr Zardari is speaking as though he has the reins of the polity in his firm grasp. This implies that nothing can happen or be sustainable without his blessings. Now this rhetoric may provide some much needed encouragement to the ranks of the PPP, but it is hardly the perception most people share. The PPP may well find itself in some trouble even in its stronghold of Sindh; in the rest of the country, particularly in its erstwhile main base Punjab, it has virtually been wiped out. The demoralistion in the ranks of its jiyalas (committed workers) is too obvious to deny. If Zardari thinks by wheeling-dealing and plucking saleable opportunist electables from other parties (a process all the parties seem to be wedded to at present), he can rescue the PPP from its slough of despond, this may well turn out to be wishful thinking. Of course one can make some concessions to the exaggerated rhetoric all parties indulge in during election campaigns (which have begun) but unrealistic pitches and opportunistic leanings are likely to further blight the prospects of the PPP. In any case Imran Khan seems least inclined to shake hands with Asif Zardari, either before or after the elections. He is relying on the independents holding the balance of power in a possible hung parliament and making deals with them. So although Asif Zardari’s seemingly visceral hatred of Nawaz Sharif inclines him to consider extending a hand to Imran Khan as a ‘necessity’, this too may be more wishful thinking than a plausible course. But quite apart from the mutual bad relations amongst the three main contending parties, the real question hovering in the background is whether Zardari’s narrative is innocent electioneering or being parroted on someone’s behest. Some commentators have not shrunk from ascribing Asif Zardari’s new tilt as serving the purposes of the establishment, which arguably is bent upon denying the PML-N power. However, even if this be true, Asif Zardari would be expected to have enough experience and understanding of the modus operandi of the establishment to realise that once he has served their purpose, the forces of the establishment are quite capable of ditching him too. Zardari’s present Machiavellian course therefore does not even guarantee success, and may well further weaken the already depleted ranks of the PPP.