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14 - 20 Apr , 2012
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VIEWPOINTZardari's Tirade Against Sharifs
by TARIQ BUTT

Almost a year before the next parliamentary polls, President Asif Ali Zardari has kicked off the election campaign by camping in Lahore for three days after a long time, taking on his archrival, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif, in an extremely uncharitable tone. He did not appear to be the symbol of the unity of the Federation for a moment when he made a few highly reprehensible remarks (some of them were retracted later as usual after realising that it was a big blunder). In reality, he looked to be only the co-President Asif Ali Zardarichairman of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), an ordinary partisan hater of his political opponents. However, everyone applying the saying - everything is fair in love and war - to his unbecoming blistering attack would condone his harangue.
Zardari's sweltering and poisonous tirade against the Sharif brothers was primarily meant to warm up and activate the PPP rank and file in Punjab where it has consistently failed to fare better in any electoral exercise after 1977 and has not been able to form government even once since then. It is a different story that his unguarded comments might have damaged the PPP more than benefiting it. What the President and his advisors have failed to understand is that it is the lack of leadership at the top as well as the Punjab level that has been the principal cause of the party's regular defeat in the majority province. To expect that the PPP would get a different treatment from people of Punjab at the hustings next time when the province is worst hit by the power outages is nothing but living in a fool's paradise. The President's stay in Lahore has not brought about any change in the ground situation in the sense that no radical improvement in the structure and organisation of the PPP has been made in the party that would produce wonders for it in the forthcoming general elections.
Just look at what the worthy President uttered in anger in Lahore: "Sharif brothers couldn't even gather enough people to offer the funeral prayers of their father and had to go to the Data Darbar Complex for the purpose; Sharifs are immigrants; the glory they are enjoying is because of me only, and I can snatch it from them whenever I want." The venom was at its peak when Zardari ridiculed the number of faithfuls attending the funeral prayers of late Mian Mohammad Sharif which was offered in Lahore after his body was transported there from Saudi Arabia during the Sharif clan's exile to the holy land. It was indeed a callous and cruel comment that must have been avoided regardless of the scorn and contempt that Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif Zardari may have for his political adversaries. Only he can explain what political benefits he would draw from this remark except exposing himself to public laughter. Nawaz Sharif made a telling remark, of course appreciable, when he said that he prays for the forgiveness of the President's deceased father.
It is incomprehensible as to why Zardari taunted the Sharifs for being "mohajirs" in Punjab. What political connotations he wanted people of the province to draw from this mocking is unclear except that the duo has no right to rule or can't claim to have political foothold in Punjab for mere fact that they, in his view, are not "sons of the soil". Here a natural question will arise: will the President say the same thing about his ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which boasts of representing the "immigrants" from India although as a matter of fact they are now as good sons of the soil and locals as anybody else because everyone living in Pakistan as its citizen has equal rights and obligations, and it is not the length of stay in the country that should have any significance or bearing. A son of soil has no and can't have preference over an "immigrant". In fact, calling immigrants, those who came from other areas and chose to settle in Pakistan, is an insult to them. This was totally unbecoming of Zardari to jeer at the Sharifs this way. He should innovate something creative to lambaste them for which he has every right for being in politics.
Zardari's third remark – I gave the glory and glitter to the Sharifs and I can take it away from them when I would want – is obviously boastful, being made by a man swollen with pride, who considers himself as the master of all political tactics for the simple reason that he has been in power against heavy odds although he was thrown into the position of taking over the PPP by the martyrdom of its actual leader, Benazir Bhutto. It is a historic fact that when she had ended her self exile and returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007 to resume her political activities, she had asked him to stay in Dubai to do baby sitting and not Mian Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif contest the forthcoming general elections. That is sufficient to show his political wisdom and sagacity that even his spouse shunned to benefit from. The biggest success that Zardari falls back on to present himself as the only statesman Pakistan has produced is that he has kept a motley crowd with him and sustained in government. There is nothing else that he has to show to the people, who are worst off since the PPP came to power in 2008. This is not an allegation but a bitter fact that every citizen of this unlucky country expresses and suffers.
Even Zardari's "statesmanship" has failed to propel the PPP in a position where it could form government in Punjab. His view that he let the Sharifs govern there to get rid of Pervez Musharraf as president is nothing but self-serving and ironical. One may ask: Who was the major beneficiary of this eventuality? None but Zardari because he became President of Pakistan after Musharraf's exit. Therefore, what favour did he do to the Sharifs by "allowing" them to form a government in the majority province. Had he been in a position to clinch the Punjab government, he would never have permitted the PML-N to take charge.
Zardari, the Sharifs and all politicians have every right to act and say as per one's perception. But they need to be watchful about their actions and words otherwise they would expose their real ugly faces to the people of Pakistan and earn their ire in elections. They are the ones, who are and will lead the nation whose destiny is and will remain in their hands. Therefore, they have to be discreet, prudent and judicious. If they fire remarks like those of the President, they are bound to be subjected to public ridicule and derision. Everybody sitting outside Pakistan will simply laugh at the fate of this country and the hands that are and will rule it. Undoubtedly, the Punjab government was at fault not to give due protocol to the President of Pakistan (who happens to be its arch political opponent). But it is the Office of the President that has to be respected and valued. If the Chief Minister was abroad for medical treatment and thus not available to receive Zardari at the Lahore airport, he should have deputed some minister and senior officials to accord the President due protocol. It is quite possible that Zardari became uncontrollable in his remarks against the Sharif brothers after the Shahbaz Sharif government totally ignored to give him the required official protocol. Naturally, this act of the provincial government and the subsequent blasting of Sharif brothers by the President will heighten political temperatures. Both major political parties have every right to take on each other to buoy up their political prospects and hide their incompetence and failures but they have to remain within certain confines so that the attacks and counterattacks do not become too personal.

 
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