Zardari given credit for post-election conduct

Khalid Hasan comments on the report by Washington Times citing a US election observer who was surprised by PPP co-chairman’s ‘almost total lack of bitterness’WASHINGTON: Asif Ali Zardari, according to an article published in the Washington Times on Monday, deserves much of the credit for not letting Pakistan descend into corruption and mismanagement following elections.


Thomas Houlahan, a Pakistan election observer with the Centre for Media and Democracy, writes that when he met Zardari shortly after the election and he was struck by a number of things, the most obvious and surprising of which was his “almost total lack of bitterness” considering that he had spent 11 years in prison on charges that ultimately were dropped. “A desire to seek retribution against the people who put or kept him there would have been understandable. ‘There are things that have to be done for Pakistan that need to be attended to immediately,’ Zardari said, adding, ‘I don’t have time for it’.”

The writer quotes lawyer Ahmed Raza Qasuri as saying, “If he had behaved like a madman after the election, I think the people would have understood, especially after the murder of his wife. Instead, after having suffered so much personally, he has been a statesman, and I think it is largely thanks to that that things have gone as smoothly as they have.”

Houlahan said Zardari had outlined some ambitious and forward-looking goals to him. He was concerned not only with jobs, shelter, clothing, food and education for the people of Pakistan, but with totally reforming the country, politically, economically and socially. “I could sense a firm determination to meet those goals,” the writer added. He said Zardari had selected competent people without any serious taint of corruption for top jobs in the new government. One of President Musharraf’s “close associates” told Houlahan, “Do you think Musharraf has really enjoyed politics? The main reason he has been hesitant to cede power has been concern over how responsible the people he would be ceding it to would be.” So far, the writer noted, the president had a good working relationship with the new government. He had not expressed any private concerns about the government to any of the close confidants either.

Houlahan noted that Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has shown no inclination to seek a showdown with the president, and has made it clear that his removal is not a priority. Concerns in the United States that Zardari would pull Pakistan out of the war on terror have also proved ill-founded.

“It is true the PPP government is going to de-emphasise military operations in the areas bordering Afghanistan. However, it is doing so not because it is soft on terror but because military operations alone have not been effective. As a result, the government is essentially launching a social offensive, to clean up the festering problems that provide fertile ground for the recruiters of terrorists. So far, so good, thanks largely to Mr Zardari.”

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