Guest Post by Amjad Malik
Mr. Zardari despite all reservations and his past was duly elected by the Parliament on 6 September 2008 and it is a good sign for democracy that opposition legitimised the show by participating it and later whole heartedly accepting defeat. Congratulations to Mr. President and let’s bye gone be bye gone and restart a new chapter in Pakistan with an aim of parliamentary sovereignty, rule of law and economic alleviation in the country which is at the verge of institutional and economic collapse. The job which requires sheer wisdom and consultation may not be completed if President does not take himself above his party interest and venture to work jointly as envisaged in ‘ Charter of Democracy’ by his knightly wife Be Nazir as working single handedly may not remove the dark clouds on the civil system which carry a history of four decades.
I foresee four main issues which may take him from 5 months to 5 year rule. First of all his impartiality as his job requires him to treat all equally by genuinely promoting Federation and allowing the healthy opposition by invoking an idea of issue based constructive politics. If he can agree to disagree and allow this principle to be digested by his party and the political class in general, it will evaporate the politics of 90 and will promote tolerance which is in deficit in Pakistan. It will also strengthen the civil system and continue the political process. He must also consider giving his party position to that of his sister and or the sister in law whilst he is a head of state, of course with due consultation of his party.
Secondly, most important issue is Pakistan’s foreign policy. I believe the determination the limits of Pakistan’s role in war on terror will be very crucial and he must take Parliament and security apparatus in confidence in order to advance Pakistan’s due and lawful contribution in this global exercise keeping our sovereignty intact. Musharraf’s tacit understandings which has no parliamentary backing will not be acceptable now and any ‘double crossing’ will not work here either, so he must make it clear that no access either to nuclear or our rear tribal areas without Parliamentary approval and security clearance as that will determine how far his new assignment is acceptable to circles which matters. If aid emphasis remains on United States then shopping list will come with it from them and trade preference will vanish so we need a clear priority on state integrity, controlling inside security and flourishing economic activity.
Thirdly, judges issue will remain a bone of contention in his governance if not settled amicably. I am sure he can work on bigger issues of repealing 17th amendment, implementing charter of democracy and economic revival if judges are restored in accordance with his own declared agreements with his opponents. I am not sure whether he is acting like Nehru or is genuinely has been transformed like him but his credibility will depend a lot on how he settles the judges issue. The way he has so far managed to divide judges, pulled out pro PPP lawyers from the movement and finally had capped the long march show his capacity & management skills. However, dishonouring the whole struggle may not leave any judge in future for so called war of independence of judiciary and sovereignty of Parliament in the event military comes in future, so despite having reservation on any particular judge by PPP, saving the original principle is a genuine and national cause. Iftikhar Choudhary no doubt carries the support of the people for his resilience against a dictator since 9 March 2007 and their clans restoration, compensation and honouring them will create a serious obstacle in the way of military intervention in future.
Fourthly, the issue of a popular slogan of ‘roti kapra aur makkan’ the manifesto of PPP to ease the suffering of ordinary people of Pakistan by providing shelter, food and employment, basic justice and human rights and that’s only possible if Mr. Zardari’s government could get out of the mess it should have been out in the first month. When there is an international food shortage and recession looking over our heads and Pakistani budget trailing in 10 billion, there is not a lot of economic activity one may initiate. Its agreed that his govt. may not be able to fill the bellies of millions who are living below poverty line, but historian will definitely forgive him if he contributes to rebuild a basic structure from where service are provided by erecting hospitals, employment bureaus, educational establishments, and justice for all irrespective of who they are as I believe if his nation is healthy, happy and educated and is treated equally then they will find a way to contribute constructively in any national drive.
Finally a word of wise to new President that complacency is a vry dangeroius thing in politics and he must learn from that of the coup de tat against Mian Nawaz Sharif. When General Musharraf took over on 12 October 99, Mr. Sharif premiership had a two third majority, his own party supported President, his brother as chief minister and he had government in all provinces including his speaker and chair of senate but we witnessed that a junior ranking officer implemented the orders of his seniors by pointing a short range gun on the prime Minister and his own appointed COAS. The lesson from it was clear and unambiguous to initiate a ‘charter of democracy’ by both former premiers to avoid a similar situation. Absolute power is nothing, the key to save the system is in partnership of civil and military and collective collaboration of political forces until we are out of a real threat of a war. We wholeheartedly welcome you for being duly elected and you have a chance to either change the history from here onwards and stop the future of military dictatorship in Pakistan or become a victim of history yet again. You can either be a villain a don of yesterday or be an originator of a new dawn for the poverty ridden, institutionally weak, segregated, and truly traumatised Pakistan. The decision is yours and BB will be watching over you with great interest.
Amjad Malik is a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court of England & Wales