In his system, anti-Pakistan political parties E2 Zardari PP, MQM and ANP – would rule in perpetuity, the independence of judiciary and neutrality of public servants abolished, and the armed forces replaced by militias of the ruling parties.
“We want to change the system” has been the battle cry of President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for some time. Since the speech of both is characterised by vagueness and lack of substance, no one ever paid much attention to what they meant. The talk of change of system is not new in Pakistan. Different political parties put the label of ‘Islamic system’ or ‘socialism’ on their political programmes. But Asif Zardari has no deeply held conviction except belief in his own infallibility and everybody else’s fallibility given enough time. So, when he says he wants to change the system, what is he talking about? First, the tenacity of AZ is monumental indeed. He tries long and hard to curry favour of those he wants to defeat. Usually his target is his competitor who he detests and wants to destroy. But in the case of women he targets those who spurned him. His life, love and work is characterised by ‘conquest’. He bullies or bribes his competitors and usually s ucceeds in being the one standing under the tree when the fruit ripens and falls. He developed his technique with women but he has found that it works just as well in politics.
Unless one understands how merit-less AZ had such a hold on Benazir - a person with princess like elegance and beauty - it is impossible to understand how he works and plays, both in the same way. Benazir was known for her hedonist life style in her youth. She had been spoilt somewhat by her doting father but she possessed great charm, poise and dignity. A lot of men courted her and considered marrying her but found her intimidating. But she was not intimidating for AZ; he saw her as a pretty woman - an object of conquest. He knew that that Benazir would never even consider marrying a man with a silly smile and a big moustache. But AZ is a Shia and so is Benazir’s mother; the matchmaking machine had something to work on. She was a ‘ripe fruit’ having been in the marriage market for long and he was the only one standing under the tree when the matchmakers went into action. But it was a match made in hell. Any one who has seen the film ‘sleeping with the enemy’ would understand the relationship between AZ and Benazir. It was she who ended up being intimidated by AZ. She was so intimidated it is difficult to exaggerate. She never really told any one but all her female friends knew that Benazir was living a lie. But Benazir’s brother – Mir Murtaza Bhutto – understood AZ types well as there are many among the feudals in Sindh. The hate between Murtaza and Zardari was palpable and was well known. Murtaza’s children believe that AZ got their father killed. Fatima Bhutto has written about it in the newspapers and her account is very convincing. Benazir perhaps also knew that. That is sleeping with some enemy indeed. Psychologists would attribute her recklessness during the last days of her life, almost courting death, to that fact.
The man accused of having Murtaza Bhutto assassinated and who drove his wife to death is the political successor of both. The enormity of that irony and the gross injustice that it entails is the raw material with which AZ has brought about a ‘change of system’. I emphasise that the system has been changed already; the entire Pakistani nation is in fact ‘sleeping with the enemy’. It is the impact and implication of the ‘change of system’ that is being rolled out now. One got the idea how complete was his ‘conquest’ of Pakistan on the first anniversary of Benazir’s death. He told the assembly of mourners that he knew who had murdered Benazir. He told them not to ask any questions, just follow him He spoke with authority like a conqueror and no one questioned him there or later. His authority stems from his being able to get away with it all. He has a discredited crony as the Chief Justice and the military are fully under the spell of th e ‘conqueror’ and the ‘master’ of Pakistan. Truth is what comes out of his lips; nothing else matters any way. Pervez Musharraf would have given his eye-teeth for such ‘full spectrum dominance’ but such gifts are possessed only by criminals and mafia leaders.
The conquest of Benazir by AZ was not his personal project alone; it was a family project. The father of AZ – Hakim Ali Zardari (HAZ)- was an MNA of the PPP from Sindh when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became so seriously angry at his betrayal that he had to go into exile in London. HAZ felt so threatened that he joined the ANP – the nemesis of the PPP - and was appointed the President of ANP in Sindh by its President Abdul Wali Khan. Marrying Benazir was not just a conquest by AZ; it was sweet revenge for HAZ. The echo of AZs satisfaction was heard on the first death anniversary of Benazir. He called upon the leader of the ANP, who he addressed as the grandson of Bacha Khan (who opposed Pakistan and defied Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and whose son -Wali Khan- was the main political foe of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) to join him. He also called upon the leader of the MQM (the new enemy of Pakistan and deadly nemesis of the PPP during the Prime Ministership of Benazir Bhutto) also to join him. That is the new system of AZ. All the enemies of Pakistan would henceforth be its rulers in perpetuity.
The change of system does not end here. The armed forces may be under his spell but they have a statutory responsibility to defend the country against aggressors as well as subversives and enemy agents. That any person organisation be able to stand up and assert statutory neutrality, discretion or independence is unacceptable to AZ. He has recklessly violated the rules in making appointments and has even appointed a number of indicted criminals like Rehman Malik and Salaman Farooki to high ministerial office. There has been little challenge or protest from the press or the politicians. That is another ‘conquest’ i.e. of the civil administration. He has now given notice that he would appoint the next CJ without taking into account the seniority of judges. If he succeeded, that would be another ‘conquest’ i.e. of the judiciary. The only organisations that have guarded their statutory role and independence are the ISI and the armed forces. That is why the UN investigation of the death of Benazir is so important.
When a murder takes place, it is an opportunity to get one’s enemies arraigned on the charge. Benazir gave some names to Wolfe Blitzer of the CNN, which were made public after he death but they drew only derision. AZ is not interested in those names; they are history. He wants the ISI alongside the ‘Islamists’ to be blamed for her murder. His plan is unfolding slowly. The Mumbai attack of 26/11 provided him an early opportunity to put his plan into action and he wasted no time indeed. General Mushar raf banned Lashkar e Tayyeba (LeT) in 1991 after he became an ally of the US against us – the people of Pakistan. It changed its named to Jamaat ud Daawa (JuD) and has been operating entirely as a welfare organisation ever since. It is still held in high esteem for its present and former role. India, in any case, is ever eager to use the UN to place constraints on the freedom movement in Kashmir and had requested the UN sanctions committee to include the JuD in the list. AZ did not consult the foreign office or the military before asking China to withdraw the ‘hold’ that had been put on new Pakistan based organisation to be put on that UN list. AZ had given the name of former ISI chief - General Hameed Gul – to be included in the UN list of terrorists to start the ball rolling in the direction of the ISI. But the Chinese found that a step too far. However, the sword of Damocles is still hanging on the head of the ISI; that sword is the UN investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Since the UN always finds what the US administration wills it to find, AZ hold that as his trump card against the armed forces in general and the ISI in particular.
Then there are many ‘useful idiots’ in Pakistan’s politics who can be mobilised ‘against’ the national interest in the ‘name’ of national interest. The PML (N) and Jamaat i Islami do oppose the use of the armed force in FATA and NWFP but t hey also warn of the ‘danger’ of a military coup d’etat as the bigger evil. AZ surely knows that the liberation of Kashmir has been No 1 national objective of Pakistan since 1948. The objective is well supported by the people and the armed forces. The latter are held in high esteem because they have defended Pakistan against an eight times bigger enemy despite the political class having been infiltrated by enemy agents. To AZ, that is a threat. He wants no one to be held in high esteem; he wants this entire nation to be like his ‘conquered woman’ – grateful for every violation, excess and insult that their master wills upon them. .
The system that Asif Zardari has put in place ensures that the protégé of local and world imperial powers - the PPP, ANP and MQM – enjoy power in Pakistan in perpetuity. Since the prestige and power of the armed forces and popular support to liberation of Jammu and Kashmir stand in his way, AZ seeks to undermine their popularity as well prestige. It is unlikely that he would be able to achieve that objective through the UN – either by getting the ISI indicted for Benazir’s murder or by joining India in getting UN sanctions imposed on his country. But AZ does not accept defeat or change course easily. Having declared that Kashmiri freedom fighters are terrorists and India is his friend, he has become the prime enemy of Pakistan himself. After coming this far, he would not hesitate to go all the way to get Pakistan into war without any friends and at a time when the guns of the armed forces are turned against its own people. That is his immediate objective. He is using the pressure mounted by India and the West in unison on Pakistan in the wake of Mumbai attacks to first demoralise the forces of resistance and then to unleash the Army against them. Indian agents are beheading people in FATA and the NWFP to create such a situation.
Much against its own wishes and of the vocal lobby of ex-servicemen, the ball is in the court of the military. AZ sees the resistance from the Islamists and the statutory role of the military as a threat to his throne. India knows it can lose Jammu and Kashmir if the military insists on performing its statutory role to defend the country and AZ is ousted. America knows it could be forced into retreat in Afghanistan. Despite their enemy being the same their strategy cannot be the same. The armed forces of Pakistan can deal with all eventualities starting with AZ. He is on the wrong side of the people as well as the law. The last judgement of the Supreme Court before it was made dysfunctional on 3 November 2007, was to ask all the institutions of the state particularly the armed forces to assist in upholding its authority violated by the PCO issued by the COAS. Since General Musharraf was the President as well as the COAS at the time, the armed forces were inhibited in obeying the order of the Supreme Court. Not any more. I t is the right and proper duty of the armed forces as an institution to restore the properly appointed Chief Justice – Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – to his office. All elections and appointments after 2 November 2007 would need to be put under legal scrutiny and judicial review. Calm and order would be restored in the country we love in one day. How can any soldier, sailor or airman flinch from such a honourable duty?
What AZ is close to putting in place will institutionalise a system in which no civil or military servant would have the protection of law – not even the judges; no, particularly not the judges. The military will not be the servants of the state and the guardian of its laws and the constitution, they will be the sentries and guards on palaces of rulers providing pomp and show to state ceremonies to underpin absolute authority of the ruler. AZ has already sidelined, even incarcerated, leaders who are held in high esteem by the people. The armed forces would soon be required to turn their guns on them and their supporters and followers. In the AZ system, upholding national objectives and the rule of law has become a crime. Already the armed forces are protecting criminals from the wrath of the people. The transformation has occurred so fast that it is hard to believe one’s eyes. The National Security Advisor Mahmud Durrani has been sacked and is being replaced by more ‘trustworthy’ Tariq Aziz. While the PM was disciplining his National Se curity Advisor, Sherry Rehman and Rehman Malik were making the very same unauthorised disclosures to the press. If the PM did not sack Sherry and Rehman Malik, he will be the one who might be forced to resign.
This comic soap opera called Zardari –Gilani Administration has run long enough. That a person of the character of AZ inherit the mantle of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto is a travesty too far. The political class is unable to rise to the challenges the country faces. But the people are united and its institutions ready and able to meet the threats. Pakistan will not only survive it will thrive because of the huge challenges it faces. A country is strong when its institutions are strong i.e. willing and able to perform their statutory role. When the institutions of the state become the servant of a criminal, the armed forces become another mafia. When the political parties become captives of hereditary leadership, they also turn into mafias. That is why even free and fair elections also returned mafia leaders to power. AZ is the biggest mafia leader who shares power with other mafias – the ANP and MQM. His objective is to destroy the statutory independence of all civil and military institutions. If that is clearly understood, the problems of Pakistan are really simple and the means available to solve them quite adequate. .
The lawyers’ movement has already prepared the ground for an independent judiciary willing and able to provide justice. All that n eeds to be done is the restoration of the CJ in compliance with the order of the Supreme Court of 3 November 2007. AZ is a criminal and should be dealt with as such. The primary duty of the armed forces is in Kashmir and on the border with India. They should mind that duty. The resistance in Afghanistan and in Kashmir to occupation is legitimate and popular. Pakistan should be on the right side of both. All the other things will fall into place so quickly we would wonder what were we fretting and frowning so much about?
The writer is the Director of London Institute of South Asia (LISA)